Chargers schedule brings excitement and doubt

Talk of the NFL Draft was put on hold Wednesday when the NFL released its schedule for the upcoming season. The San Diego Chargers have a few prime games and a strong season in 2005 will definitely bring in the non-believers.

"Last year is over," said general manager A.J. Smith. "Division Champs and 12 wins. That was last year."

And this year hasn't started off so well.

The schedule makers weren't kind to the Chargers this season. No wonder they decided to keep Drew Brees – this team needed a scapegoat this year.

The Bolts will face five playoff teams outside of their division and will be showcased three times – four if you include the preseason.

"The national games, terrific for the fans and terrific for us," said general manager A.J. Smith. "I think we have arrived as an organization."

"My friends back there think highly of us," said executive vice president Jim Steeg. "I think they respect what everyone has done here. It is a recognition of performance. The Chargers are now one of the premier teams in the NFL."

The cost for recognition figures to be high.

Within the AFC West division, teams have retooled and, in some cases, gotten significantly better. The Oakland Raiders offense received an overhaul and Randy Moss is playing for the enemy. The Chiefs seem determined to add a defense to their already potent offense. The Broncos, meanwhile, are adding pieces for another playoff run.

The high energy game figures to be Eli Manning and the New York Giants coming to town. It will pit the man who spurned the city and the team in front of the rambunctious audience at Qualcomm.

Think of it as a typical Raiders game and keep the children at home.

Smith deftly dodged questions surrounding that affair, "Those are questions for Eli. He's the one who made the statements he didn't want to come to the Chargers."

The Chargers are up 6,000 season passes from a year ago, a testament to the season they had. But those people who jumped on board may be in for a rocky start as the month of October figures to be a test for this team.

They face the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers in successive weeks and then play Oakland before facing the Philadelphia Eagles and the tests seem to never stop.

"It looks tough on paper," Smith said. "There are some good teams. We just don't think about it very much to be honest."

"We are trying to get National attention," Steeg added.

The question is whether they will disappoint now that they are back on the stage. They have a chance to seize an opportunity and create a long-lasting buzz but they also have a chance to fall just when they are starting to climb the mountain.

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