Bolts Ready for Bright Lights of Prime Time

The Chargers believe they are the team to beat in 2008. Now, they'll have six opportunities to prove it to a national TV audience. The Bolts learned today that they will play six prime-time games next season, including marquee matchups against the Patriots and Colts. Team expert Michael Lombardo offers a game-by-game breakdown of the schedule.

Week 1: Carolina PanthersThe Chargers have the misfortune of playing the Panthers on opening day; if this game was any later on the schedule, you could all but assure that QB Jake Delhomme would be on the injured-reserve list.

Week 2: at Denver BroncosIn two meetings last season, the Chargers beat the Broncos by a combined scored of 64-6. Expect more of the same if Jay Cutler decides to throw at Brandon Marshall instead of to him.

Week 3: New York JetsAn aggressive offseason means the Jets will be much improved next season. However, Antonio Cromartie will be licking his chops whether its Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens under center.

Week 4: at Oakland RaidersThe Chargers have won nine straight over their in-state rivals, so perhaps the men in Silver & Black are due. Then again, when the Raiders target Kwame Harris and William Joseph in free agency, it is safe to say they just don't get it.

QB Cleo Lemon
Rick Stewart/Getty

Week 5: at Miami DolphinsThe Dolphins are coming off a season to forget, but the Chargers have to feel pretty good about it. Former Chargers Cleo Lemon and Greg Camarillo hooked up to keep the Dolphins off the schneid in 2007.

Week 6: New England PatriotsThe Boys from Boston have ousted the Chargers from the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. The Chargers hope to have everyone healthy for the primetime rematch, which is easily the most anticipated game of the season.

Week 7: at Buffalo BillsTo all of those who criticize Philip Rivers for not playing up to par with his 2004 draft-day classmates, I offer the following counterpoint: J.P. Losman.

Week 8: at New Orleans Saints (in London)—Drew Brees finally gets a chance to get even against his former team. Rivers will no doubt be up for the challenge as Chargers fans are left to ponder who is the better quarterback.

Week 9: Bye

Week 10: Kansas City Chiefs: The Chargers don't see the Chiefs for the first time until November, which could be a good thing or a bad thing. The Chiefs could be out of the running by this point, or Herm Edwards could have his young team starting to gel at right about this time.

QB Ben Roethlisberger
Keith Srakocic/AP

Week 11: at Pittsburgh SteelersThe Chargers and Steelers are very similar, relying on imposing defenses and powerful running attacks to drive their teams. This marquee matchup will determine which team does it better.

Week 12: Indianapolis ColtsThe Chargers won both meetings against the Colts last season, picking off Peyton Manning eight times in the process. It is safe to assume Manning will spend plenty of time in the film room before this prime-time showdown.

Week 13: Atlanta FalconsMichael Turner makes his return to San Diego to show the Chargers what they're missing. What are the odds that Turner has more rushing yards than LaDainian Tomlinson coming into this game? Hard to put them at any less than 50-50.

Week 14: Oakland Raiders—The Chargers finish up their first three-game home stand since 2001 with their second game against the rival Raiders. By this point, Oakland should either have a franchise quarterback or another crippling contract to worry about.

Week 15: at Kansas City Chiefs—Behind the heavily favored Chargers, the rest of the AFC West appears more than muddled. It says here the Chiefs will be in second place by the time this game rolls around.

Week 16: at Tampa Bay BuccaneersIt's the same-old, same-old every year with the Bucs: a stingy defense going to waste because of Jon Gruden's insistence on piling up as many mediocre quarterbacks as possible. Gruden will eventually wear out his welcome in search of the next Rich Gannon.

Week 17: Denver Broncos—The NFL hopes that the AFC West title will be up for grabs in this end-of-the-season affair. Unless the Broncos can rediscover a pass rush that has been missing for two seasons, that is unlikely to happen.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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