The offseason is officially over, which means it's time to set sail on the 2015 campaign. Will it be another frustrating season for Chargers fans? Or will San Diego get back into the tournament after a one-year absence? To answer that question, we predict the outcome of every game in what could be the Chargers' final season in San Diego.
Week 1: Lions
The Lions won 11 games last season, but their defense lost its best player in Ndamukong Suh. On the other side of the ball, Detroit's offense is loaded at the skill positions, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts (20.1 ppg last year). The matchup between receivers Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett should be epic.
Prediction: Chargers 27, Lions 16
Week 2: at Bengals
This is Cincinnati's home opener.This will be a tough challenge for San Diego's remade interior offensive line, which will have to keep Geno Atkins and rookie Marcus Hardison from collapsing the pocket. Also, San Diego's run defense (which allowed 4.5 yards per carry last season) will have its hands full trying to slow down Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard.
Prediction: Bengals 27, Chargers 23
Week 3: at Vikings
San Diego's second straight road contest brings another tough test for the run defense, as Adrian Peterson is sure to run with a vengeance after a year away from the game. Peterson set the single-game rushing record (297 yards) in a game against the Chargers back in 2008. San Diego's head coach in that game, Norv Turner, is now Peterson's offensive coordinator. Something tells me Turner will have something up his sleeve for his former team.
Prediction: Vikings 30, Chargers 21
Week 4: Browns
There are no gimmes in the NFL ... except for the Browns. There is no way the Chargers are losing to a team quarterbacked by Josh McCown and/or Johnny Manziel. No further analysis necessary.
Prediction: Chargers 34, Browns 13
Week 5: Steelers
It's been more than a decade since the 2004 NFL Draft, but it still matters to Philip Rivers. He takes these matchups against Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning personally, so expect him to play at a high level. Also, with Antonio Gates returning from suspension this week, Rivers will have all his weapons available.
Prediction: Chargers 37, Steelers 34
Week 6: at Packers
This is the toughest game on San Diego's schedule. The pressure with be on John Pagano's young pass rushers, because if Aaron Rodgers has time to throw, he will pick you apart. The Chargers will put up a good fight, but the Packers are a little more potent on offense and a little more experienced on defense.
Prediction: Packers 27, Chargers 21
Week 7: Raiders
The Raiders are no easy "W" anymore. The Derek Carr-Amari Cooper connection has a chance to be special, while Oakland added depth and talent to every level of its defense this offseason. The Chargers still have the better roster and the better coach, but the gap has closed some and the margin for error is noticeably smaller.
Prediction: Chargers 28, Raiders 20
Week 8: at Ravens
One of San Diego's most memorable wins last season was its come-from-behind victory in Baltimore. Can the Chargers win in M&T Bank Stadium two years in a row? It says here they can. The Ravens are an overrated team who feasted on the terrible NFC South in 2014. John Harbaugh & Co. will not make it back to the playoffs and will not beat the Chargers in Week 8.
Prediction: Chargers 31, Ravens 28
Week 9: Bears
This is the renewal of the Rivers-Jay Cutler rivalry. Except, of course, Rivers is playing better than ever and Cutler is now just one step above Geno Smith. This game isn't all about the quarterbacks, though. There isn't one position on the roster where the Bears are better than the Chargers. There is no reason for this game to be close.
Prediction: Chargers 41, Bears 20
Week 10: Bye
Prediction: The Chargers go into the bye week at 6-3 and riding a three-game winning streak.
Week 11: Chiefs
Make no mistake: It is the Chiefs, not the Broncos, who stand between the Chargers and the AFC West crown. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are too much for King Dunlap and D.J. Fluker to handle. Also, the Chiefs upgraded their mediocre offense with the addition of receivers Jeremy Maclin and Chris Conley. The Chargers need to win this game in order to stay in the hunt for the division title. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening.
Prediction: Chiefs 28, Chargers 24
Week 12: at Jaguars
The Chargers have a frustrating tendency to lay one egg every season. Coming off a tough loss to the Chiefs and looking ahead to a critical game against the Broncos, that egg could come right here. The Jaguars gave the Chargers all they could handle in the first half of their meeting in 2014. After landing some studs in free agency (Julius Thomas, Jermey Parnell and Jared Odrick) and executing a stellar draft, the Jaguars are talented enough to take advantage.
Prediction: Jaguars 24, Chargers 20
Week 13: Broncos
This figures to be a battle between two teams scrapping to stay in the playoff race. San Diego has faired well against the Broncos since Mike McCoy came over from Denver, especially when able to dominate time of possession. This is the kind of game where San Diego will be glad it traded up for Melvin Gordon.
Prediction: Chargers 31, Broncos 21
Week 14: at Chiefs
In their second meeting in a four-week span, the Chargers will attempt to avoid getting swept by the Chiefs for a second consecutive season. However, winning at Arrowhead in December is never easy. It seems like these Chargers-Chiefs games are always decided by three points or less and this figures to be no exception.
Prediction: Chiefs 27, Chargers 24
Week 15: Dolphins
The Chargers have not forgotten the 37-0 whooping the Dolphins put on them last season. But this game is in San Diego, not Miami, and at this point the Chargers will have their backs against the wall. For added motivation: there is a chance this is the final Chargers game ever played in San Diego.
Prediction: Chargers 33, Dolphins 14
Week 16: at Raiders
Even when the Raiders were a laughingstock, they always played the Chargers tough. And as I mentioned above, the Raiders are no laughingstock anymore. It is very possible Oakland will still be in the playoff hunt at this point, giving this game more significance. Unlike last season's game in Oakland, when Carr is driving his team for the game-winning score, he'll be throwing to Cooper, not Brice Butler.
Prediction: Raiders 23, Chargers 21
Week 17: at Broncos
The Chargers need to win at Mile High in the season finale to post a third consecutive winning season and have any chance at making the playoffs. By this point Peyton Manning's arm should have all the strength of a limp noodle, so give the advantage to the road team. It is only fitting the final game of Manning's career goes down as a loss to the Chargers, who tormented him for much of his time in Indianapolis.
Prediction: Chargers 33, Broncos 24
FINAL RECORD: 9-7
How many games will the Chargers win this season? Talk about it inside our message boards!
Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. In addition to being publisher of SDBoltReport.com, he works as the Senior NFL Reporter for Footballinsiders.com. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.