One of the things that always sticks in the back of my mind as I write about my favorite team is the ever present subconscious bias I have. To combat this, I’ve always attempted to look at the Denver Broncos from an objective standpoint. Even still, I know it’s there. That’s just one reason why I thought it would be illuminating to speak with fans from a rival team in the AFC West. Michael Peterson is the Deputy Managing Editor of Bolts From the Blue, SB Nation’s Los Angeles Chargers site.
Our conversation has been lightly edited.
1st & 10
Quietly the Chargers GM Tom Telesco has built one of the sturdiest rosters top to bottom in the entire league. Everyone’s got their eyes on Patrick Mahomes, but what are your expectations for the Chargers as we approach the 2019 season?
Expectations are obviously pretty high, and it’s tough for them not to be. After a rough stretch in 2015 and ‘16, the team has finally had back-to-back winning seasons and are coming off a 12-4 season. We also can’t forget that they also got their first win at Arrowhead Stadium, and first playoff victory, in over five years.
My expectations are also high, but I don’t believe they’ll be able to top their 12-4 record from last year. There were far too many games that came down to the end and they almost all worked out in the favor of the Chargers. However, a 10-6, 11-5 record is still very attainable if they win the games they should, at least on paper.
There is likely a dropped game to the Raiders or Broncos, and likely a split with the Chiefs, plus tough match-ups against the Bears, Colts, and Steelers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hopeful, but there’s plenty of challenges ahead.
2nd and 8
At least from what I’ve seen, the offensive line and linebacker corps look like the two biggest question marks. Would you say that’s accurate? What are the biggest concerns you have with the team?
I’d say that’s accurate, for sure. The offensive tackle spot is the largest question mark, by far. With Russell Okung out with an “undisclosed injury” and the team doing nothing in the offseason to provide more depth outside of the Trey Pipkins’ selection in the third round this year, they really did nothing to make fans feel better about the lack of depth.
The linebacker group is actually one of the more fortified positions, especially after the team signed Thomas Davis who is the picture of consistency and longevity in this league. In a room full of guys who can’t stay healthy, Davis needs to pass out all of his secrets to the rest of the defense. With Kyzir White coming back from injury and the emergence of Uchenna Nwosu at the OTTO position, they’ve got some young guys ready to roll behind incumbent starters Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown.
Outside of the OTs, my biggest worry is with the defensive interior and whether or not the addition of Jerry Tillery will make the needed impact on the team’s recent deficiency at stopping the run. Other than that, I feel pretty good about the rest of the defense.
3rd and 5
I always value outsider’s perspective as a way to combat my own orange shades. How do you see the Broncos moves since the teams last played to end the regular season? How do you see them this year?
As an alumni of the University of Iowa, I know firsthand how much of a difference-maker Noah Fant is at the tight end position. He’s a mismatch waiting to happen and hopefully the Broncos are able to capitalize on what he’s good at instead of forcing him to be something he is not.
Joe Flacco has the best arm of a Broncos’ quarterback that I’ve seen in some time and you just hope their offensive coordinator can utilize that with the great pass-catchers around him in Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders.
They also had a heck of a draft, in my opinion. Dalton Risner is a great get where they got him and Dre’Mont Jones may surprise a lot of people after he fell in this year’s draft.
Going into this year, they’ve got the right pieces on offense and defense to be in any game against anybody. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller are going to be one of the best pairings in the NFL at their positions. Phillip Lindsay is going to be great and Royce Freeman may take a step forward, as well.
There’s plenty to be excited about if you’re a Broncos’ fan in 2019.
4th and 1: How do you foresee the AFC West finishing, and any final thoughts?
1. Chiefs (11-5)
2. Chargers (10-6)
3. Broncos (7-9)
4. Raiders (6-10)
My thoughts: I don’t trust the Raiders until they finally prove it. Also, Tom Cable kills offensive lines and I don’t trust that Trent Brown will pan out. The offense should be much improved with AB and Tyrell Williams, but that defense is still suspect.
The Broncos will likely have more luck outside of the division than in it, leading to an average record. I think the Chargers drop one or more games than last year, but stay up in the division. The Chiefs are going to be the team to beat for me until proven otherwise, as well. I hope this division becomes the Wild West and leaves us fans wanting more in this coming season.