The Chargers nearly fell from being the top team in the AFC West to the worst in just a matter of one season. For them to do so, they must win some crucial games on their schedule in order to retain the division crown. Here are the five most important games for the Chargers to be successful.
Week 4 @ Kansas City Chiefs: In 2011 the Chiefs rose above their rapid injuries throughout the season to come within one devastating overtime loss to Oakland in Week 16 away from making the playoffs.
Now, the Chiefs have Kyle Orton and Matt Cassel to choose from at quarterback as well as a healthy Jamal Charles and Dwayne Bowe at their arsenal.
San Diego needs to overcome the potentially lethal offense at a raucous crowd at Arrowhead to prove they can still compete with top-tier teams in the AFC.
Week 5 @ New Orleans Saints: Obviously, the New Orleans Saints have a lot going on for them including new coaches, player suspensions and an unhappy Drew Brees. However, if Brees does finally get signed before the season and is playing in this game, there is a lot at stake for both sides. Brees will be trying to prove that the Chargers should have never chosen Phillip Rivers over him and vice versa. Also, this will be a huge test for the defense that had their struggles against the passing game as they will be going head-to-head with one of the most lethal offenses in the league. Overall, this could be an epic clash that San Diego needs to come away victorious in.
Week 6 @ Denver Broncos: Not only will this be San Diego’s big test against the defending division champions, but they will also be pitted against Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Luckily for the Chargers, they have had plenty of success against Manning when he was with the Indianapolis Colts. However, that was the old team Manning was on. This is a new look and a new Manning. It will be vital the Chargers assert their dominance in divisional play against the Broncos.
Week 12 vs. Cincinnati Bengals: The surprise team of 2011, the Cincinnati Bengals, are poised for yet another breakout season in 2012 with Andy Dalton and AJ Green running the offense. However young they may be, the Bengals have the skill and enthusiasm to make a veteran team such as the Chargers remember what it was like to be successful. Rivers has a chance to have a huge game with the unproven Bengals passing defense. If Rivers struggles in this game finding his receivers like he did many times las season, he could be in for a long day.
Week 16 @ New York Jets: Obviously, Week 16 is make for break for teams looking to get into the post-season and both the Chargers and Jets could be in a position for a much needed victory this deep into the season. New York will be challenged by the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots to make it to the playoffs while the Chargers could be anywhere from first to fourth in their somewhat stacked division with the Broncos, Chiefs and emerging Oakland Raiders. Regardless of where they stand in the division, winning in New York is a must for any hope of making the playoffs for the Chargers.
Of course, in a 16-game schedule, every game in important, but these are the five that really stand out as must win situations for San Diego to build up to a potential playoff birth.