Previewing the Denver Broncos second go around against the Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert throws. Credit: Jayne Kamin, USA TODAY Sports.
Justin Herbert throws. Credit: Jayne Kamin, USA TODAY Sports.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance,” Lloyd Christmas, Dumb & Dumber.

After last week’s loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the 7-8 Denver Broncos have a less-than 1% chance of making the playoffs. Their competition, the 8-7 Los Angeles Chargers, still have a lot on the line and a 37% chance. 

These two teams previously faced off in Week 11 when the Broncos came away with a dominant 28-13 win. With Teddy Bridgewater still in concussion protocol, Drew Lock will be the starter this time. 

Denver goes into Sunday’s game as 6.5 point underdogsHere’s what the Broncos can expect to face from the Chargers in Week 17.

Chargers on Offense

The Chargers are currently the fourth-best overall offense and face the Broncos’ sixth-best defense.

Justin Herbert has the second-most passing yards of any quarterback with 4,394, as he’s clearly an emerging superstar. On the season, he’s thrown for 33 touchdowns and rushed three in as well. But are the Broncos his kryptonite? The last time these teams faced each other, the Broncos sacked Herbert three times and picked him off twice, one of which was a pick-6.

Offensively, the Chargers have the sixth-best red zone offense scoring a touchdown (about one-third of the time (62.69%). The key to beating a high-powered offense is forcing turnovers and preventing them from scoring, and if the Broncos want to win, they’ll have to do it again.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen has already crossed the 1,000 receiving yard threshold, but it should be noted the team’s No. 2 receiver, Mike Williams, has already been ruled out due to being on the reserve/COVID-19 list.  

Austin Ekeler was out last week with Covid-19 but will return against the Broncos. In Week 11, while Denver managed to hold Ekeler to only 31 rushing yards, they did allow six receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. He is in line for a massive game as the Broncos will be without Bradley Chubb, Stephen Weatherly, and Jonathon Cooper.

Chargers on Defense

The Chargers’ defense sits at No. 22, while the Broncos’ offense is 23rd-best currently. 

But it may be tough for Denver to even produce their usual 19.9 points per game because the Broncos roster has been decimated with Covid-19 this week. Right tackles Bobbie Massie and Calvin Anderson have already been ruled out, meaning Cam Fleming will get his first start. Fleming was originally cut when the final 53-man roster was announced so Drew Lock, who is prone to turnovers, will be dealing with a dramatically weaker line of protection. Outside linebacker Joey Bosa has 9.5 sacks and six forced fumbles which could make Lock’s life very difficult.

Not only will Lock be without protection, but he will also be without wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Tim Patrick.  

Last week, Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon combined for only 8 yards, preventing the offense from gaining any momentum. However, Los Angeles has one of the worst rushing defenses, so Denver will likely scheme a run-heavy attack. Williams and Gordon previously averaged 4.4 yards per carry against the Chargers and will need to bring that energy again this week if the Broncos are going to win.

Score Prediction: Broncos 24, Chargers 20

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