My friends, the wait is almost over. We’re just hours away from the Denver Broncos’ first game of the 2017 regular season. The Los Angeles Chargers are coming to town tonight, and two first time head coaches will pit their teams against each other in a game that could give us a lot of insight into how the AFC West could play out this season.
Welcome back to Running Wild, a “bold predictions”-style weekly series where orange-tinted glasses are issued at the door and we might get just a little crazy. Each week I’ll do my best to point out some important matchups on the field, and then take a stab at predicting some of the more lopsided or unexpected results.
Feel free to contribute you own takes in the comments. Tomorrow night we’ll see who’s right and who’s running a little too wild.
Matchup One: Broncos offensive line vs Chargers pass rushers
This isn’t absolutely the most important matchup on the field tonight when considered all by itself. But it directly impacts the other important matchups, and if the Broncos come out on the wrong end here, the other two will be all that much harder. Vance Joseph is trotting out two new starters at offensive tackle: rookie 1st round pick Garett Bolles and former Raiders tackle Menelik Watson. They simply must hold their own versus the Chargers’ impressive outside edge rushers: Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Look, they’re not going to keep Trevor Siemian’s jersey completely clean. It’s just probably not in the cards. But if they can be solid, then the offense as a whole will have a significantly higher chance of success.
Matchup Two: Trevor Siemian vs Chargers secondary
The Chargers’ secondary isn’t on the same level as the Broncos’ No Fly Zone, but they’re no slouches either. In 2016 the recipe for frustrating the Broncos’ offense was pretty simple: load the box and dare Trevor Siemian to beat you with his arm. Now it’s 2017 and Siemian is healed up and, presumably, readier than he’s ever been.
If Trevor Siemian is going to be our franchise quarterback, then he’ll need to step up and overcome challenges like the one he’ll face tonight. Personally, I want to see 300+ yards and 2+ TDs from him tonight. Fingers crossed, guys. But that said...
Matchup Three: Broncos defensive line vs Chargers rushing offense
Last year’s edition of the Broncos defense had one glaring weakness: run stopping. Historic secondary and elite pass rush are nice, but they’re more than a little hampered if you can’t stop the ballcarrier reliably. This week the Chargers will be trotting out a talented running back in Melvin Gordon, but also a questionable offensive line in front of him.
I firmly believe that if our front seven can hold its own in run defense, the secondary can handle whatever Philip Rivers and company can throw at them. But if last season’s run defense issues haven’t been shored up, we could be in for long, clock-killing scoring drives that would put us at a significant disadvantage. Fortunately, though, our run defense looked good in the preseason and the Chargers rushing attack has question marks.
- A Tight End will score the first Broncos receiving touchdown of 2017.
- The Broncos’ first rushing touchdown of the season? Jamaal Charles, folks.
- Trevor Siemian’s final statline 314 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Interceptions, 3 or fewer sacks. (Note: So far, Siemian has never thrown an interception in a 300+ yard game.)
- Von Miller abuses former Bronco Russell Okung for three sacks.
- Aqib Talib takes a Philip Rivers pick to the house.
- Justin Simmons notches an interception in his first game as an official starter.
The above matchups aren’t the end-all, be-all of the game. I just highlighted some areas that are both important and questionable. Other units, like the No Fly Zone, will get their say. So at the end of the day, I think the Broncos pull out a solid victory over an over-hyped Chargers team.
Broncos 31, Chargers 23
Which prediction is most likely to come true?
This poll is closed
A TE catches the first receiving TD of the season.
Jamaal Charles runs in the first rushing TD.
Trevor Siemian makes a solid debut.
Von Miller puts on a clinic.
Aqib Talib keeps doing his thing.
Justin Simmons introduces himself to Philip Rivers.