Chargers serve as yearly example

Just because a team wins a few early season games doesn't mean it's destined for the playoffs. Just look at the Chargers.

Updated: September 4, 2003, 9:46 AM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
Every year, the schedule helps a team destined for a losing record to a few early season victories. When it happens, people fail to see the situation clearly. Instead, no one can imagine the streak ending. Beat writers compose articles about how the coach, or the star player, or whatever was added to the team in the offseason, has turned the franchise around and that better days are here at last.

Casual fans in the home city jump on the bandwagon. In actuality, the football gods looked down on them and blessed the team with an easy early season schedule. When the opponents get tougher, a losing streak inevitably follows and those hopes of a glory season are quickly forgotten.

The Carolina Panthers went 1-15 two years ago, but started last season 3-0. An improved defense stomped on reworked offenses in Baltimore and Detroit, then terrorized a Vikings team responsible for the Panthers' sole victory the season before. Panther players taunted that they expected to be this good and that they were a legitimate contender under first-year head coach John Fox.