Ben on the Bolts: The Final 9

Every April, when the NFL schedule is released, most football fans engage in an impossible exercise. We go through our favorite team's 16-game slate, and try to forecast wins and losses for each game. We do this before the NFL draft, or before a single free agent has signed with a new team. Pure guesswork, with predictable results.

Fast-forward six months. The NFL season is nearly at its midpoint. We have a good idea about which teams are playoff contenders, and which teams will be playing out the string in November and December. Injuries have changed rosters, quarterbacks have been promoted and demoted, rookies have started to adapt to the league…and still, trying to forecast the 2nd half of the season is a fool's errand.

Well, it's time for this fool to take a stab at how the Chargers (4-3) will fare in their final 9 games of the season.

WEEK 9 at WASH: Back in April, a matchup against the defending NFC East champs at FedEx Field looked like it might be the toughest game on the Chargers schedule. Now, it looks winnable. Robert Griffin III has struggled in his return from injury (although he did lead his team to 45 points against the Bears last week). The Washington defense has been poor against the run and pass. Ryan Mathews could be in line for a 3rd straight 100-yard game. If Philip Rivers keeps playing the way he has lately, the Chargers will score 35+ points. The defense will allow a TD (or 2, or 3) for the first time in nearly a month, but the Bolts emerge with their 3rd straight win. CHARGERS 38, WASHINGTON 30

WEEK 10 vs. DEN: The Colts showed how the Broncos can be beaten…but can the Chargers follow the blueprint. My gut tells me that Mike McCoy will have an excellent game plan against his former team, and the Chargers will give the Broncos all they can handle. Unfortunately, the secondary remains a weakness for the Bolts. Peyton Manning leads a late scoring drive for a game-winning Matt Prater field goal. BRONCOS 36, CHARGERS 35

WEEK 11 at MIA: The Dolphins can be beaten at home…the Buffalo Bills just proved that. But Miami has a tough team, with a solid defense, and the Chargers offense may be due for a letdown, especially on their 5th trip to the Eastern Time Zone this season. DOLPHINS 23, CHARGERS 17

WEEK 12 at KC: In the surprise of the second half, the Chiefs overlook the Chargers (or just run out of magic) in between two games against the Denver Broncos. It might be the only game Kansas City loses at Arrowhead all year. CHARGERS 20, CHIEFS 17

WEEK 13 vs. CIN: After letting one get away against the Bengals last year, Philip Rivers gets some revenge…and another win over a potential playoff team. The Bolts build momentum as the final month of the season begins. CHARGERS 26, BENGALS 23

WEEK 14 vs. NYG: The Giants will be looking toward the finish line, and hoping to avoid embarrassment. Rejuvenated by back-to-back wins, the Chargers crowd hounds Eli Manning into 3 more turnovers. CHARGERS 31, GIANTS 14

WEEK 15 at DEN: Thursday Night Football in altitude is not a recipe for success. Thud. BRONCOS 40, CHARGERS 20

WEEK 16 vs. OAK: Stinging from their loss in the Black Hole, the Chargers take care of business against a team that's looking for better things in 2014. CHARGERS 27, RAIDERS 10

WEEK 17 vs. KC: Sitting at 9-6, the Chargers are faced with a myriad of playoff possibilities. With Miami and Tennessee, and the Jets all still in the mix, the Chargers could win and make the playoffs, win and miss the playoffs, lose and miss the playoffs, or even lose and make the playoffs. With the Chiefs locked into the 5th seed, they rest their starters and the Chargers get the win, finishing the season at 10-6. But is it enough to make the playoffs in a tiebreaker situation? CHARGERS 23, CHIEFS 12

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