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Winning close games key to Chargers' bouncing back in 2016

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O-Line stability key to Chargers' success (0:22)

In this lightning-fast preview, Trey Wingo highlights the big moves from the Chargers' offseason and what to watch for in 2016. (0:22)

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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Last Season: 4-12

Fourth place, AFC West

Preseason power ranking: 26

The Chargers were 3-9 in games decided by eight points or fewer last season and finished winless in the AFC West for the first time since 1984. If coach Mike McCoy can figure out a way for his team to win some of those close games and take at least three games inside the division, the Chargers have a chance to earn a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

San Diego, for the most part, stood pat with an offensive line that could not stay healthy in 2015. Past injuries are usually a good predictor of future injuries. To make matters worse, guards Orlando Franklin and D.J. Fluker already have suffered nagging injuries during training camp. If San Diego’s offensive line can’t stay healthy, the Chargers will struggle to sustain any consistency. Couple that with a defense that still has problems stopping the run, and San Diego could be headed down a similar path as last year’s 4-12 team.

Chargers’ percentage chance to win each game

Sept. 11 @ Kansas City: 26.0

Sept. 18 vs. Jacksonville: 61.0

Sept. 25 @ Indianapolis: 29.0

Oct. 2 vs. New Orleans: 60.8

Oct. 9 @ Oakland: 31.8

Oct. 13 vs. Denver: 45.7

Oct. 23 @ Atlanta: 38.3

Oct. 30 @ Denver: 27.9

Nov. 6 vs. Tennessee: 65.6

Nov. 13 vs. Miami: 62.1

Nov. 27 @ Houston: 36.8

Dec. 4 vs. Tampa Bay: 61.4

Dec. 11 @ Carolina: 22.9

Dec. 18 vs. Oakland: 46.6

Dec. 24 @ Cleveland 51.8

Jan. 1 vs. Kansas City: 44.4

Eric. D. Williams’ game-by-game predictions

Philip Rivers hasn’t missed a game since taking over for Drew Brees in 2006. No one threw or completed more passes last year. There are plenty of questions about the group around him, but Rivers is a known quantity in San Diego. -- Dan Graziano

Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman emerged as a playmaker as a rookie last season. Put in the starting lineup in the second half of 2015, Perryman served as a tone-setter on defense, finishing with 74 tackles and two sacks. He’s playing faster and with more anticipation in his second season. With the addition of veteran nose tackle Brandon Mebane up front, Perryman could develop into a Pro Bowler in his second season.

After a disappointing rookie season, running back Melvin Gordon appears ready for a bounce-back year in 2016. The Wisconsin product did not score a touchdown in 2015 but grabbed a 44-yard reception for a score and a 39-yard touchdown run during preseason play. Gordon has a much better grasp of San Diego’s offense and looks more comfortable and confident running the football.

The Chargers have the best quarterback in the AFC West in Philip Rivers. But how free-agent additions like receiver Travis Benjamin, safety Dwight Lowery, center Matt Slauson and Mebane perform around the veteran quarterback will determine whether the Chargers make the playoffs. If San Diego can stay relatively healthy and the defense plays to its potential, then the Chargers can be in the postseason conversation at the end of the season.