Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers
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The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off of their second straight losing season, but they appear to have found Philip Rivers' replacement in Justin Herbert. He was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 after setting an NFL rookie record with 31 passing touchdowns. He also averaged 289.1 passing yards per game, which was an NFL rookie record and the fourth-most this season overall. At the same time, the Chargers once again suffered through many notable injuries last year, and have a new head coach to figure out in Brandon Staley. 

The AFC West should again be an interesting division to follow in 2021. Below, we will break down every game on Los Angeles' schedule this upcoming season, and try to predict a final record. In my first glance at the Chargers schedule last month, I came up with an 8-9 record. Let's see if that changes with this more detailed look. William Hill has the Chargers' win total at O/U 9.

(Over/Under win totals for every opponent courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook)

Week 1 at Washington Football Team

Line: Chargers -1
Opponent win total: O/U 8

This game is actually one of my top five too-early picks for Week 1 of the 2021 season. Unfortunately it's because I'm taking Washington. Their elite defense will provide a tough test for the young Herbert, and Ryan Fitzpatrick has been known to start seasons hot before cooling off. Back in 2018, he became the first quarterback to throw for over 400 yards in three consecutive games -- with those three games being the first three contests of the season. It's definitely a tough first game for coach Staley, so I'm picking Washington.  

Prediction: Chargers lose 30-24
Projected record: 0-1

Week 2 vs. Dallas Cowboys

Opponent win total: O/U 9.5

This will be Herbert's first time facing "America's Team," a franchise that has received plenty of undeserved hype over the past few years. Still, Dak Prescott leads an offense that can put up points, and the Chargers defense is either going to have to contain that offensive attack, or Herbert is going to have to out-duel one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. This should be a close, fun game, but I'll take the Cowboys. 

Prediction: Chargers lose 35-31
Projected record: 0-2

Week 3 at Kansas City Chiefs

Opponent win total: O/U 12.5

The Chargers split the season series with the Chiefs last year, but their win came against backups in Week 17. Still, Herbert almost scored a victory against the Chiefs in his very first start back in Week 2. He was incredibly poised for his first game, as he completed 22 of 33 passes for 311 yards, one touchdown, one interception and also rushed for a score in the 23-20 overtime loss. I'm not picking them to win on the road in Kansas City, but stay tuned for the rematch in Week 15. 

Prediction: Chargers lose 30-21
Projected record: 0-3

Week 4 vs. Las Vegas Raiders (MNF)

Opponent win total: O/U 7.5

So the Chargers didn't get off to a hot start, but they have another opportunity to score a win against a divisional opponent in Week 4. It's also on a primetime stage and at home. Herbert lost his first matchup to the Raiders, 31-26, but beat them in Vegas in an overtime thriller in Week 15 last year. The Raiders are going to be a decent squad, but here's where I have the Chargers scoring their first victory. 

Prediction: Chargers win 26-21
Projected record: 1-3

Week 5 vs. Cleveland Browns

Opponent win total: O/U 10

The Browns could be one of the best teams in the NFL in 2021. Kevin Stefanski went 11-5 in his first season as head coach and even won a playoff game. They made impressive additions in free agency and also had a great draft, so this should be a big matchup. I'm picking Cleveland even though the Chargers have the backing of their home crowd. 

Prediction: Chargers lose 30-24
Projected record: 1-4

Week 6 at Baltimore Ravens

Opponent win total: O/U 11

The Chargers had the No. 18 rush defense in the league last year while the Ravens had the No. 1 rush offense. Baltimore's offense could be even better in 2021, as Lamar Jackson now has Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman to throw to. The Ravens also play an aggressive style of defense, so it will be interesting to see how Herbert handles this pressure on the road. I'm leaning Baltimore. 

Prediction: Chargers lose 27-23
Projected record: 1-5

Week 8 vs. New England Patriots

Opponent win total: O/U 9

OK, so the Chargers are 1-5 coming off of their bye week. Definitely not a good thing. This Week 8 matchup is where things can turn around, though. Herbert's worst game as a pro came in Week 13 against the Patriots, as the Chargers lost 45-0. I imagine this would be a revenge spot for this team after what was such an embarrassing loss last year. Chargers rebound with a victory, and begin a bit of a win streak. 

Prediction: Chargers win 31-21
Projected record: 2-5

Week 9 at Philadelphia Eagles

Opponent win total: O/U 7

The Eagles have some interesting playmakers in Miles Sanders and DeVonta Smith, but is Jalen Hurts truly the future under center? Philly is going to be a tough place to play, but Herbert and Co. are motivated to improve their record and put together a few wins in a row. 

Prediction: Chargers win 27-20
Projected record: 3-5

Week 10 vs. Minnesota Vikings

Opponent win total: O/U 8.5

The Vikings are another team with talented weapons, but they have some questions on defense and I think there could be a quarterback controversy on the horizon if Kirk Cousins struggles. I'm not confident in the Vikings, so I'll take the Chargers in Week 10. 

Prediction: Chargers win 28-17
Projected record: 4-5

Week 11 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (SNF)

Opponent win total: O/U 9

This would be an incredible primetime matchup. The Chargers are on a three-game win streak in Los Angeles hosting a talented Steelers team. This club faltered in a big way towards the end of last season, and there are legitimate questions surrounding quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. I say defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill dials up a great game plan, and the Chargers keep their win streak alive with a huge win. 

Prediction: Chargers win 27-24
Projected record: 5-5

Week 12 at Denver Broncos

Opponent win total: N/A

With the Chargers coming off of an emotional win and on the road against a divisional opponent, this looks like a spot for a loss. Herbert split the season series with Denver last year, and I think that happens again. A loss on the road and a win at home. 

Prediction: Chargers lose 23-21
Projected record: 5-6

Week 13 at Cincinnati Bengals

Opponent win total: O/U 6.5

This looks like a potential trap game on the road. Joe Burrow won just two games in his first NFL season, including one against a good Tennessee Titans team in Cincy. This roster will be improved with the additions they made in the offseason, so you can't sleep on them. Bengals score an upset victory thanks to Ja'Marr Chase

Prediction: Chargers lose 28-27
Projected record: 5-7

Week 14 vs. New York Giants

Opponent win total: O/U 7

The Giants are another interesting team whose potential hinges on the play of quarterback Daniel Jones. Some are anticipating a major leap for ole "Danny Dimes," but it's possible he could disappoint in 2021. I'll take the Chargers here. 

Prediction: Chargers win 30-23
Projected record: 6-7

Week 15 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (TNF)

Opponent win total: O/U 12.5

This could be a potential trap game for the Chiefs if the Chargers can remain healthy. That's a huge "if," but I'll go ahead and give the Chargers an upset win here late in the season thanks to a rocking SoFi Stadium. This could add some juice to a rivalry that has been pretty one-sided since 2014. 

Prediction: Chargers win 31-28
Projected record: 7-7

Week 16 at Houston Texans

Opponent win total: O/U 4.5

The Texans are going to be terrible this year. With a win, the Chargers now have more wins than losses for the first time all season. 

Prediction: Chargers win 24-10
Projected record: 8-7

Week 17 vs. Denver Broncos

Opponent win total: N/A

As previously stated, the Chargers split the season series with the Broncos, so they get a win at home here. 

Prediction: Chargers win 33-28
Projected record: 9-7

Week 18 at Las Vegas Raiders

Opponent win total: O/U 7.5

The Chargers also split the season series with the Raiders, and lose a tough game on the road to close out the 2021 season. Los Angeles finishes with a 9-8 record, but it is a winning record and shows that they are moving in the right direction. 

Prediction: Chargers lose 24-23
Projected record: 9-8