Playoff teams will provide early test for Chargers

Philip Rivers and the Chargers are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Don Feria/Getty Images

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Los Angeles Chargers.

Breakdown: The Chargers won nine of their last 12 games last season after an 0-4 start, barely missing the playoffs. And with the three other teams in the AFC West dealing with different levels of transition, the Chargers have the most continuity returning on their roster and the coaching staff. The only starters they lost in free agency are Tre Boston and Kenny Wiggins, and they return the top decision-makers on the team’s coaching staff, with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley reaching new deals. In his second season with a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers, coach Anthony Lynn should compete for a division crown.

“Shoot, now this is a heck of an NFL schedule,” Rivers said. “It’s funny because every team has known their opponents now for months, but when you see them with a date, it changes things for you. This makes it feel a little more real, and we know we’re getting closer.

“I’m excited. Like any year, the first thing you look for is who you open with. Seeing that we open at home against the Chiefs, who have dominated our division the last couple years, it’s exciting to start the year against them at StubHub Center.”

Playoff teams on tap early for Bolts: As Rivers said, the Chargers open up with the Kansas City Chiefs at home, followed by a road contests against the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams. All three teams made the playoffs last season, and should provide a good, early gauge on where the Bolts stand with the rest of the league. “I loved the way we finished the season, but that was last year,” Lynn said. “I told the guys this [Monday] morning, it’s a completely different season. ... So we’ve got to go to work, and we’ve got to get back to where we finished last year, for sure.”

London calling: The Chargers will play in London for the first time in a decade on Oct. 21 against the Tennessee Titans at Wembley Stadium. The last time the Chargers played in London was on Oct. 26, 2008, a 37-32 loss to the Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints. That game also was at Wembley. The Chargers have one Thursday night game and no games on Monday Night Football for the first time in three seasons. The London game begins a six-week stretch where the Chargers will not have a home game. “I have not been back [to London],” Rivers told the NFL Network. “This will be my second trip back 10 years later from that trip to London against the Saints.”

Strength of schedule: 24th, .480

Chargers' Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, Kansas City, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, Oakland, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, at Cleveland, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, Tennessee, 9:30 a.m.

  • Week 8: BYE

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 4, at Seattle, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, Denver, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Cincinnati, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 15: Thursday, Dec. 13, at Kansas City, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Baltimore, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Denver, 4:25 p.m.