Late-season surge pushes Chargers to winning record

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Practically being ignored in their new hometown and playing in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center might actually work in the favor of the Los Angeles Chargers. With low expectations after relocating to L.A., the Chargers can take advantage of that by sneaking up on the AFC West and the rest of the league. I predicted the Chargers would finish 9-7 earlier this year before the draft, and I'm bumping that up to a 10-6 record here.

Week 1: Monday, Sept. 11, at Denver Broncos, 10:20 p.m. ET

The Chargers hold a 17-40-1 record on the road against the Broncos and haven’t won at Sports Authority Field since 2013. That streak continues here. The Chargers are 22-22 all time on Monday night. Record: 0-1

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, vs. Miami Dolphins, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Dolphins are one of six playoff teams the Chargers face from last season. This is the fifth straight season the Chargers and Dolphins will face off. Since 1995, the Chargers are 4-10 against Miami. It’s also the eighth time Philip Rivers will match up with a team led by Jay Cutler. Rivers is 4-3 against the Vanderbilt product. Record: 1-1

Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 24, vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:25 p.m. ET

Will Alex Smith still be the starter at quarterback? Or will head coach Andy Reid make the switch and start rookie Patrick Mahomes? Either way, the Chargers finally stop a six-game losing streak against Kansas City. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, Philadelphia Eagles, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Chargers have not matched up against the Eagles at home since 2009 and are 7-4 all time against Philadelphia. RB Kenjon Barner also faces his former team in the Eagles. I’ll take the veteran in Rivers over young Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz. Record: 3-1

Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET

Eli Manning, who spurned the Chargers in the 2004 draft, is 0-3 against the Chargers. It should be a good matchup between the Giants, one of the better defenses in the NFL, and the Chargers’ potent offense. Record: 3-2

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, at Oakland Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET

The last three games between these two teams in Oakland have been decided by a field goal. Expect another competitive game at the Black Hole, so I’m picking the Chargers in an upset here. Raiders assistant head coach John Pagano faces his former team for the first time. Record: 4-2

Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, vs. Denver Broncos, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but it will be hard for them to overcome the team’s issues at quarterback no matter whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, at New England Patriots, 1 p.m. ET

The Chargers travel to New England for the first time since 2011, facing Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs. This game should be a good test for Anthony Lynn’s squad before heading into the bye week. But, of course, I’m taking the Patriots here. Record: 5-3

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. ET

The Chargers have owned the Jaguars, beating them six straight times. Make it seven. Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley faces his former team for the first time since he was fired after four seasons as Jacksonville’s head coach. Record: 6-3

Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 19, vs. Buffalo Bills, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Bolts have won four of their past five matchups against the Bills, as Lynn faces his former team. Record: 7-3

Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 23, at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 p.m. ET

The Chargers haven’t played on Thanksgiving Day since the league merger in 1970, and for the first time since 2009 they travel to Dallas to face the Cowboys. The Chargers have won three of the past four meetings against Dallas. Record: 7-4

Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, vs. Cleveland Browns, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Chargers look to get some redemption after giving the Browns their only win last season in Cleveland. The last time the Chargers lost at home against the Browns was 1991. Record: 8-4

Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, vs. Washington Redskins, 4:05 p.m. ET

The Chargers host Washington for the first time since 2009. However, the last time the two teams met, the Redskins -- led by Robert Griffin III -- defeated the Chargers in overtime 30-24 at FedEx Field. Record: 9-4

Week 15: Saturday, Dec. 16, at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:25 p.m. ET

The Chargers usually play the Chiefs tough on the road, holding a 23-24 all-time record at Arrowhead Stadium. Weather is usually a factor this time of year in K.C., and the Chiefs don’t let one slip away here. Record: 9-5

Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, at New York Jets, 1 p.m. ET

Lynn faces another former employer in the Jets, whose running backs he coached from 2009 to 2014. At this point of the season, the Jets could be in full tank mode, getting in better position to take the quarterback of the future in the 2018 draft. Record: 10-5

Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:25 p.m. ET

Raiders fans are already putting plans together for a New Year’s Eve bash that will start in the StubHub Center parking lot. Will any Chargers fan dare to show up to the Silver and Black takeover, part II? Record: 10-6