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Broncos absolutely must start fast against the Chargers

The offense needs to come out swinging, and the defense has to come to play.

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Philadelphia Eagles v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Good post-Turkey Day morning, Broncos Country!

Broncos sit at the bottom of the AFC West at 5-5, but ironically, still control their fate as five of their last seven games are against division rivals. And those rivals are barely ahead in the standings with the Raiders and Chargers just ahead at 6-5 and 6-4 respectively, and the Chiefs at 7-4.

The problem is, of course, the Broncos have been wildly inconsistent. The Denver team that beat the Cowboys could beat every team left on its schedule. But the team that lost to the Eagles would easily lose every game - even to the Lions.

And while the Chargers have been up and down this year as well, it’s clear their offense behind franchise QB Justin Herbert is becoming dominant (full disclosure - I haven’t watched a single Chargers game because, why? But Keenan Allen is on my fantasy team and he is scoring mega points even with Mike Williams on the team!).

Herbert has led four fourth-quarter comebacks and has numerous games throwing over 300 yards and tossing for multiple touchdowns.

This means the Broncos have to start fast - for realsies this time - and not allow the Chargers to run away with the game early. Both offense and defense could control their destiny in this home game but only if they put their foot on the gas and never let up.

Be aggressive on offense

Teddy Bridgewater is no Justin Herbert, but if the Broncos want to control this game, they can’t start with two stuffed runs and a missed 3rd-and-8 pass on the opening drive. They need to set the tone with an extended opening drive that also stretches the field.

Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick just got long-term extensions in large part for their ability to win the 50-50 ball. So let’s make them do it. And when Pat Shurmur moved Jerry Jeudy in motion and around the field against the Cowboys, Jeudy was able to do what he does so well - get separation through his route.

The Chargers pass defense can be quite effective, but if it has to pay attention to three potential big targets down the field while also keeping an eye on Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, the Broncos offense can wear down the Chargers.

Speaking of the running backs, the Chargers’ run defense is rock bottom by DVOA metrics, so there’s an opportunity here for the Broncos’ running attack. The key will be using them at the right time with the right call.

But overall the Broncos will need to be aggressive on offense, take some shots down the field and use the wide receivers to dictate the speed of this offense.

Defense cannot let up

Probably the bigger challenge on Sunday will be Denver’s defense stopping LA’s offense. The Broncos’ secondary could be looking at a Kareem Jackson-less safety corps, and the linebacker corps may be without Barron Browning, a player crucial to stopping Austin Ekeler and Jared Cook.

That means Justin Simmons, Caden Sterns, Patrick Surtain and Ronald Darby will be the last defense for Herbert’s many offensive weapons, and if Browning isn’t back, Justin Strnad will have to step up his game from the last outing where Browning and Kenny Young emerged as the two best linebackers in the absence of Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson.

There’s a chance the Broncos will have Bradley Chubb back on the field, which would be a big boost to the run defense that has been a sieve of late and could help the pass rush - two things that will be necessary to stopping the Chargers’ high-powered offense.

Broncos control their destiny

After the Broncos’ loss to the Eagles, it seemed as though the season was lost because the Broncos look lost on the field too much of the time.

But let’s say Denver pulls off the upset on Sunday, which wouldn’t be impossible, then they are actually contending for the AFC West lead the following week when they travel to Kansas City.

All of this is predicated on the Broncos playing complete football and getting the most out of some backups in key positions, but as they say - any given Sunday...


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