Knowing that the Chargers typically play below their talent level, I am picking them to finish 11-5 against a fairly weak schedule. I think they'll struggle to get wins against teams that do all the little things well, such as the Jets, Ravens, Patriots and Packers, and hopefully do well against the weaker teams like the Jaguars, Lions, Broncos and Bills.
Best Game On The Schedule
Week 9, in San Diego, against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers. Even if there is another early-season slow start for Norv's boys, the Chargers under Turner are historically great in the months of November and December. There will be a lot of Packer fans traveling to San Diego for this game, so it will be interesting to see which team gets comfortable first.
Player Who Takes A Step Back This Year
Takeo Spikes. He's getting up there in age and is no longer playing with Patrick Willis next to him. He's going to be relied upon to be the leader on defense, and will have lots of responsibility (such as covering tight ends) against a division that's much stronger than the NFC West that he's coming from.
Breakout Player Candidates
Donald Butler, who is filling Patrick Willis' shoes in Greg Manusky's defense has been impressing coaches since training camp last season (when he tore his ACL and missed his entire rookie season). He seems to have picked up right where he left off.
Antoine Cason, who is currently playing with a cast to cover a broken finger, is a former Jim Thorpe Award winner as the best Secondary player in college football. He is ready to make the leap to be a shutdown cornerback.
Ryan Mathews still has all the talent that people raved about before he even set foot on the field in his rookie season, and has learned the lessons from a season plagued by injuries and turning the ball over. He'll surprise people that haven't been paying attention.
Best Chargers Player Others Have Never Heard Of
Either Mike Tolbert, who rushed for 11 touchdowns as the backup running back last season, or the aforementioned Antoine Cason.
Eric Weddle is tragically underrated by fans, but is very well respected amongst coaches, other players and front office people around the NFL. Most people understood why he got the big contract he did, and it's because of all the things he allows the defense to do because he fills so many holes on his own. Weddle is the single biggest reason the Chargers defense almost never gives up a big play.
The Chargers defensive line, which is made up of a rookie, a veteran who has had one good/healthy season, and another veteran who has had one and a half monster seasons (and not much since), is overrated. If Corey Liuget, Antonio Garay and Luis Castillo all failed to meet the expectations of the fans and critics, I wouldn't be too surprised.
Fantasy Football Outlook
Philip Rivers, with the numbers he's put up since taking over the starting quarterback job, is a top three fantasy quarterback. With all of his weapons healthy and signed, this could be the best passing offense he's ever had.
Vincent Jackson, playing on a one year deal, is primed to have a ridiculously good year if he stays healthy and the guys around him (Gates, Floyd, Crayton) do the same. The running game should be as good as it's ever been since Jackson became the starting receiver, which should present even more downfield opportunities for him and Rivers.
Ryan Mathews is the potential stud at running back, and by that I mean he has the talent and the team around him to be a top five fantasy running back. Mike Tolbert is still a bit of a sleeper, but his carries will be increased from a successful 2010 campaign. On the chance that he'll be better at holding onto the ball, he'll be drafted in a lot of leagues.
Best Media Personality
Antonio Garay, and it's not even close. Between his ever-changing Dennis Rodman-like hairstyles and his hilarious twitter account (chock-full of plenty of ridiculous "planking" pictures), Garay commands attention in a locker room that's somewhat lacking in personality otherwise.
Best Player To Follow On Twitter
See above. Jacob Hester is also entertaining, but mostly during Soccer matches. Since the "Twitter lunch" scandal with Antonio Cromartie in 2009, most Chargers have either avoided twitter or been incredibly careful with it.