Because the Chargers finished first in the AFC West in 2008, this year's schedule brought games versus the reigning champions in the AFC East (Miami Dolphins) and the AFC South (Tennessee Titans). The Chargers won those games by a combined score of 65-30, which is one of the reasons they were able to secure the No. 2 seed with time to spare.
However, this scheduling structure does not always work as intended. For example, the Denver Broncos were supposed to get easier non-common opponents than the Chargers, seeing as Denver finished second in 2008. But Denver's non-common foes were the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, who despite finishing second in their divisions last season, are the winningest teams of this decade.
Coach Norv Turner
Next season, teams in the AFC West will be pitted against the AFC South and the NFC West. The AFC South is a tough division; every team in the division still has a chance to finish .500 or better. The NFC West is a different story, as the Arizona Cardinals are the division's only contender. The last time the Chargers were pitted against the NFC West was in 2006, when San Diego went a perfect 4-0.
San Diego's two non-common opponents next season will be the New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, both of whom clinched their divisions on Sunday.
--Much has been made of Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates becoming the first Chargers duo to top 1,000 yards receiving since 1985. But Jackson and Gates are also entering rarified air with their ability to move the chains. Among all receivers with at least 15 catches, Jackson leads the NFL in first-down percentage (85.3). Gates leads all tight ends in that category (76.9). As a result, Philip Rivers leads all QBs in first-down percentage (43.1).
--With five tackles against the Tennessee Titans, Stephen Cooper went over the 100-tackle mark for the second time in his career. He currently has 102 total tackles, six shy of his career-high set in 2006 (108). Cooper missed the century mark by just two tackles last season despite missing four games due to suspension.
--Alfonso Boone didn't join the Chargers till Week 3; he missed one game due to a knee injury; and he's only started three times. Yet the nine-year vet has a career-high three sacks this season, topping his previous high of 2.5, which came in 2004 when he played under Ron Rivera with the Chicago Bears. Boone is third on the Chargers in sacks behind only Shaun Phillips (seven) and Shawne Merriman (four).
--Nate Kaeding is the only kicker in the AFC converting at least 90 percent of his field-goal attempts. He has missed just three of 32 field goals, all of them coming from 40-plus yards out. If he stays true against the Washington Redskins, he'll top the 90-percent plateau for the first time in his career.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com 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. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.