By Conor Perrett
Before the start of the season these AFC West divisional match-ups looked like must-see TV.
But a dull Broncos offence and banged up Chargers means for a less than anticipated Monday Night Football. If there was ever an opportunity for Russell Wilson to change the stigma around his team, then a win against Justin Herbert in LA will do just that.
Los Angeles Chargers (3-2)
Power Rankings – 9th
Entering the season the Chargers were the new cool exciting kids on the block that were looking to set the AFC alight. Fast forward a few weeks and injuries have been the tale of their season. Herbert went down and they lost their two best linemen from both sides of the ball: Rashawn Slater and Joey Bosa.
Lucky for them, Herbert’s injury wasn’t as bad as first anticipated and a few players stepped up when they needed them most. The Chargers’ struggling rushing offence exploded in Sunday’s win over the Browns. They entered the game with the fewest rushing yards in the league at 256 and nearly equaled their season total in one afternoon in Cleveland; rushing for 235 yards.
With a statement made, it was helped by the return of their All-Pro lineman Corey Lindsey and the entire offensive line. While Herbert has been less-able with his ribs, Austin Ekeler has helped out in a big way, running for a career-high 173 rushing yards last Sunday. He has also found himself in the end-zone five times the past two weeks.
With the offence starting to spark, the question remains if their defence can finally put together a complete performance against one of the worst offences in football so far this season.
Denver Broncos (2-3)
Power Rankings – 26th
Starting on a good note the Broncos defence has been one of the elite units in the league. Their pass defence has been outstanding, as they rank second in pass defence via DVOA and sixth in EPA per dropback allowed, according to TruMedia. All the while Patrick Surtain has emerged as one of the top corner-backs in football, with his matchup with Mike Williams being a crucial key to this game.
But with the good comes the bad and this Broncos offence was a low in Russel Wilson’s career on Thursday Night Football in Week 5. So can Wilson put this offence on his saddle and finally get them to gallop?
With a longer week to prepare, it seems head coach Nathaniel Hackett will be narrowing down the offensive playbook as he looks to simple things down. Despite all the criticism this offence receives, they have not been all bad at moving the ball downfield. They rank second in complete passes over 20 yards (21), it’s just been their red-zone play and troubles on first down that keep letting them down.
When talking about simplifying the playbook, Hackett will want to put the offence in more favourable second and third down situations. Running the ball on first down has not been effective, leaving them in many third and long situations, which Hackett will look to erase.
Week 12 – Chargers @ Broncos, 13-28 Broncos Win
Week 17 – Broncos @ Chargers, 13-34 Chargers Win
Last year in these two fixtures, both home sides took the win in comfortable fashion. Home advantage always plays a part, so is this a sign for tonight?
With a full off-season since they both met, a lot has changed. Denver went all-in when they traded for Russell Wilson, while the Chargers stocked up on defence adding Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson.
The Chargers have a high powered offence that when healthy can be an elite unit. That being said this Broncos defence is serious and also have one of their key pieces returning in Justin Simmons. I like the matchup they have in the passing game and they are not going to make things easy for Justin Herbert.
A lot is going to depend on this Chargers’ running game. Last week they looked great but it was against the worst run defence in the league. If Los Angeles can establish the run then I see them taking control of the game and winning comfortably. But if the Broncos can stuff that up and force Herbert into tough passing downs, then it gets very interesting.
I believe we will see an improvement from Denver’s offence to last week, but I still can’t see it being enough. Hackett will scheme some new things in, but I think there are some personal issues involved in this mess that’s not going to make it an overnight fix.
As the light will be shining in LA, Denver’s defence will make it a closer game than anticipated. But to me this Chargers team will be too overbearing for the Broncos and they won’t be able to keep up.
Broncos 20, Chargers 24