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Scouting the enemy: Los Angeles Chargers

Mile High Report’s Christopher Hart takes a deeper look at the Los Angeles Chargers, who will face off against the Denver Broncos in their season opener on Monday Night Football.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers will square off for the 116th time under the bright lights of the gridiron on Monday Night Football. The Broncos lead the all-time series 64-50-1. Denver has won eight of their last ten games against the Chargers, and the two teams split their regular season meetings in 2016.

It’s story lines galore in this season opener. There are a lot of familiar faces for both teams, but each will be sporting new head coaches on the sidelines. Monday night’s game will be the first regular season game coached by Vance Joseph and Anthony Lynn, who both have strong ties to the state of Colorado and heck, you could call this game a “homecoming” of sorts for the two of them. Joseph played his collegiate football in Boulder for the Buffaloes, and Lynn spent several seasons with the Broncos (1993, 1997-1999) and earned two Super Bowl victories with the team during the Mike Shanahan era.

It’s also a homecoming for Broncos’ offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who is back in Denver after spending four seasons as the Chargers’ head coach. It’s an opportunity for vengeance, and I have no doubts McCoy is doing whatever it takes to formulate a fantastic game plan that can take advantage of a Chargers’ defense that was ranked 29th in points allowed last season. But it might not be as easy as you think, as the Chargers’ defense is now coached by former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach and well-respected defensive guru Gus Bradley. Under Bradley, the Chargers will now be playing a 4-3 base defense.

Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are still icons for the Chargers’ offense, but the Broncos’ defense will have to account for more than just them if they want to notch a victory on Monday night. The two longtime stalwarts of the Chargers’ are accompanied by rising stars such as Hunter Henry, Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon, who all have the ability to make game changing plays that can significantly impact the game. Our friends at Bolts from the Blue seem very optimistic about what their offense can do under the unique pairing of Lynn and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but don’t expect the vaunted Denver defense to roll over easy in this game.

That being said, there will be one player on the Broncos’ defense is absolutely licking their chops in anticipation of this game. Can you guess who? Broncos All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller has 13 of his 73.5 career sacks against Philip Rivers — by far the most of any quarterback he has faced. Look for Miller to add to that total on Monday night and perhaps debut a new sack dance or two.

The Match Up to Watch:

Denver’s DL vs. San Diego’s OL

All games are won in the trenches and I believe this match up will be key in deciding who comes out as the victory on Monday night. Denver is going to have to stop the run and put pressure on Rivers or else they could be in for a long day. The Broncos’ defensive line received reinforcements with the signings of Zach Kerr and Domata Peko this offseason, but Kerr and Jared Crick are not going to play on Monday, which is a cause for concern at a position group that has been decimated by injuries this preseason.

The Chargers’ offensive line was deplorable last season, so they attempted to make some major upgrades in free agency and the draft. Forrest Lamp was an early selection for the team, but his season is over due to a torn ACL in training camp. They also snagged former Indiana standout Dan Feeney, who is listed as a back-up guard, but could see action in Monday’s game if either of their starters falter in the interior.

Last but not least, the Chargers acquired former Broncos left tackle Russell Okung in free agency and claimed Michael Schofield after he was cut in the team’s trim down to 53 players. Those two might be able to give their coaches and teammates some tips on how the Broncos operate, but based on their play with the team last year, I don’t think they will provide the boost Los Angeles’ line truly needs.

Hart’s Prediction:

The Broncos’ offense surprises and puts some points on the board and the No Fly Zone keeps Rivers and his weapons at bay to give Denver a victory in the season opener.

Denver 27, San Diego 17.

Broncos Country, be sure to give your analysis and opinion on the game in the comments section!