Eric D. Williams, ESPN Staff Writer 14d

Favorable second-half schedule has Chargers' hopes up for a run at playoffs

Here's a look at the first half of the season for the Los Angeles Chargers and a preview of what to expect the second half:

First-half snapshot: The Chargers were in every game, with three of their five losses coming by three points or less. But much like their previous two seasons, the Chargers early on under first-year coach Anthony Lynn struggled to finish in the final moments of games. They also had trouble getting used to their new environment in Los Angeles at the StubHub Center, where opposing fans often have taken over the stadium and the Bolts have no real home-field advantage. However, after starting the season 0-4, the Chargers have won three of their past four games to stand at 3-5 after their bye week. They appear to be playing their best football heading into the season's second half. Grade: Below average

Midseason MVP: Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa have combined for 17 sacks so far this season, cementing their status as the best pass-rushing duo in the NFL. Ingram does it with speed, quickness and power, while Bosa relies on a combination of polished hand usage, athleticism and relentlessness to get the job done. Both are versatile, rushing from all across the formation. Each player's ability to get after the passer allows Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley flexibility to play different coverages in the back end. The two serve as anchors for an improved defense, and both Ingram and Bosa should be in the conversation for defensive player of the year.

Best moment: Speedy returner Travis Benjamin was barely touched on his 65-yard punt return for a score, giving the Chargers a 7-0 lead in a Week 8 contest against the Denver Broncos. It was the Chargers' first win at the StubHub Center, and the Bolts played their most complete game of the season, as the Broncos were shut out for the first time in 25 years, 21-0. The win showed how the Chargers can compete if they play well on offense, defense and special teams. However, Benjamin also provided one of the worst moments of the first half of the season, when he ran backward on a punt return and was tackled for a safety in a 21-13 loss to the New England Patriots.

Worst moment: Undrafted rookie kicker Younghoe Koo pushed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide right that would have given the Chargers their first win in the second week of the season over the Miami Dolphins at the StubHub Center. Making matters worse, some of the Chargers initially thought Koo made the kick -- because of the cannon going off and the Dolphins' fans cheering in the end zone. Koo also had a 44-yard field goal attempt blocked in the season opener against the Broncos that would have tied the game in the final seconds. The Chargers released Koo three weeks later and re-signed veteran kicker Nick Novak, who stabilized the kicking game. The Chargers had one of the worst special-teams units in the NFL last season, and they still need improvement in this area.

Second-half outlook: The Chargers still have faint hopes of reaching the postseason, as they face a more favorable schedule in the final eight games. The combined record of Chargers opponents in the first half of the season was 32-27, while the combined record of opponents in the second half is 33-34. Home contests for the Bolts include games against the winless Cleveland Browns, the Buffalo Bills, the Washington Redskins and a New Year's Eve matchup against the up-and-down Oakland Raiders. The Chargers also are pretty healthy starting the second half of the season. Their best linebacker, Denzel Perryman, is scheduled to return to the field from the injured reserve starting Week 10 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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