The Coast News Group

Jay Paris: Bolts must master AFC West if wanting to rebound

It’s called compound interest in the NFL and the Chargers need some.

“I think that is the key,’’ Philip Rivers said about winning games in the AFC West.

The Chargers open their last season in these parts on Sunday and haven’t we written that before?

Actually no one knows where this band of football players will end up. But we’re more concerned with this story’s first chapter than its last.

Rivers takes his bunch into Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium this weekend, where the Chiefs will be waiting. That and some 76,000 crazed fans that’ll be loud, proud and in full tomahawk mode midway through the first quarter.

And it’s the season’s opening quarter that concerns the Chargers.

Start fast and it often parlays into a good season and just maybe some votes this fall for the team’s new downtown stadium measure.

Start slow and all of sudden there’s chatter about coach Mike McCoy’s hot seat, whispers about general manager Tom Telesco’s lack of building a playoff contender and the City of Angels looking to swipe the Chargers, with the devil in the details.

See why the Chargers must break from the gate? Could Sunday really be the day they win an AFC West game?

There’s countless reasons why the team produced last year’s stinker, that unsightly 4-12 season which was its worst since 2003. But nothing eclipses the Chargers’ dismal showing in the division, where it took a bagel after six tries.

That extended the Chargers losing streak in the AFC West to eight games. Good luck doing anything if you don’t shine among those that know you best.

“We’ve always talked about winning games in the division,’’ said Rivers, as he sets sail on his 13th season. “Yeah, you can lose those six but you better win the next 10. That’s just not the way it sets up.’’

The Chargers’ slate has them playing four AFC West games in their first eight contests. By midseason, the Chargers will have a good idea if they’ll make the playoffs for the second time in seven seasons.

“You have to win games in the division,’’ Rivers stressed. “When we have been 3-3 or better, we have had a chance, we’ve been right there. When we are not, we are not even around. We definitely know how important those division games are and we got to get back to winning them.’’

So how does the AFC West landscape shape up, No. 17?

“I think it has a chance to be one of the more salty, tough divisions in the league, I really do,’’ Rivers said.

“Four or five years ago it was regarded by many to be a weak division. And now, shoot, it’s arguably one of the best.

“We know what Denver’s been. They won the Super Bowl last year and have been the division champs now for a handful of years (five) in a row. I think they are the top dog until they aren’t.

“Obviously Kansas City got in last year and won a playoff game and won their last, shoot, however many (10) in a row.

“Shoot, Oakland is kind of the hot team, with people talking about Oakland.’’

Shucks, that’s a lot of “shoots” and where do the Chargers fit among their AFC West colleagues after beating them just twice in two years?

“Shoot, we lost all six games (last year) so we can’t put ourselves up there yet,’’ Rivers said. “But I do think our expectation is to win the division. We believe in here that we can go from the very bottom to winning the division.

“There’s a lot of things that we have to do to make that happen but I think it’s going to be all four teams I would imagine battling for a long time.’’

The time is Sunday for the Chargers to flip their AFC West script. Returning from Kansas City with something other than barbecue sauce under their fingernails would be welcomed.

“Championships,’’ Rivers said, “start in the division.’’

Follow Jay Paris on Twitter at jparis_sports. Read his book, “Game of My Life San Diego Chargers.’’