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Scouting the enemy: Los Angeles Chargers

The Broncos want to avoid going winless in the AFC West for the first time since 1970. Can they avoid being swept or can they rise to the occasion and beat the Chargers?

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In their Week 6 matchup earlier this year, the Broncos’ defense didn’t allow Justin Herbert to throw a touchdown pass, but unfortunately it didn’t matter as the Chargers' special teams came up massively in the game, and injured kicker Dustin Hopkins nailed four field goals -including a game-winning kick in overtime.

The Broncos' offense did struggle but the biggest reason why the Broncos fell to the Chargers 19-16 was because, on a punt, P.J. Locke was pushed into returner Montrell Washington and that caused a muffed punt that the Chargers recovered, leading to Hopkins’ heroics.

Chargers’ offseason moves

Key Gains: Khalil Mack, JC Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, Gerald Everett, Sebastian Joseph-Day, Troy Reeder

Key losses: Jared Cook, Chris Harris Jr, Uchenna Nwosu, Kyzir White, Justin Jones, DT Jerry Tillery,

2022 Draft: round one: (17) OG Zion Johnson; round 3: (79) S JT Woods; round four: (123) RB Isaiah Spiller; round five (160) DL Otito Ogbonnia; round six: (195) OG Jamaree Sayler, (214) CB Ja’Sir Taylor; round seven: (236) CB Deane Leonard, (260) FB Zander Horvath.

Chargers’ since their last game against the Broncos

Since beating the Broncos, the Chargers have gone 6-4 and overall sit at 10-6, which is good enough for second in the AFC West and for clinching a playoff spot. The Chargers are also on a four-game win streak.

Since their last game against Denver, the Chargers have picked up some quality wins over the Dolphins, Titans, and Colts. On the other hand, they also have some bad losses, including to the Raiders, Seahawks, 49ers, and a close three-point loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chargers offensively are still led by quarterback Justin Herbert, runningback Austin Ekler, and their wide duo receiver Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. But do not overlook Joshua Palmer as he is having a really nice season - 68 catches for 730 yards and three touchdowns.

The Chargers defensively are still led by their pass rushers Nick Bosa and Khalil Mack and their defensive backs, former Bronco Bryce Callahan, Derwin James, Michael Davis, and Asante Samuel. The duo of Davis and Samuel each have more than 10 pass breakups, 14 and 11 respectively. Callahan leads the team in interceptions. Bosa and Mack have 9.5 sacks but Bosa has been injured most of the year.

Tanner’s three keys to victory

  1. Keep the same adjustments from the Chiefs game

Since taking over, interim head coach Jerry Rosburg made three adjustments to muscle up the offense. First, he switched play-callers from Klint Kubiak to Justin Outten and moved from a three-wide receiver set to a two-tight end and two-running back sets that allowed Russell Wilson to hit the short routes a lot better than he has all year. Rosburg also put Wilson on the move. He rushed for 27 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs, and Outten called more rollout passes favoring Wilson’s style. The last adjustment Rosburg made was to simplify the special teams. After firing Dwayne Stukes, Rosburg handed coordinator duties to Mike Mallory and oversaw the special teams' focus. Against the Chiefs, there was not a single penalty on the special teams; they blocked a field goal, changed returners to Kendall Hinton and averaged 12.3 yards per return. In coverage, the Chiefs did not have a return over seven yards. If the Broncos want to avoid being swept in the AFC West I think that Rosburg should carry over these adjustments to the upcoming Chargers game.

2. Win the battle in the trenches

This offensive line has been horrible all season and are only two sacks away from setting a new franchise worse in sacks allowed. They have allowed 61 sacks and 63 is the franchise's worst. You cannot win games at all if your offensive line is bad. The offensive line must give Wilson time in the pocket or time to scramble. On the defensive line, the Broncos could not sack Patrick Mahomes or even Baker Mayfield. In fact, they have gone back-to-back weeks without getting a sack. The last time they had a sackless streak was the first three weeks of the 2019 season. Over the last 12 games the Broncos were held without a sack, the team is 1-11, so the Broncos must sack Herbert and win their battle in the trenches defensively.

3. Score more than 20 points

In every single loss for the Chargers, they have allowed their opponents to score more than 20 each time, so let's keep that trend going. The Chargers only have two games where they have failed to score more than 20 and that was against the Titans and Broncos, both games ended with a field goal and if the Broncos are able to hold the Chargers to less than 20 points like last time and are able to score 20 points in the game it will obviously result in a win for the Denver Broncos.

Tanner’s prediction

I believe that the offense can look pretty good and we are able to keep it a close game for the entire game. Wilson could have a performance like last week with over 200 passing yards and some touchdowns. Defensively the Broncos could put together an alright game, giving up a touchdown or two as Justin Herbert will have 250 passing yards and a touchdown.

As it comes to the fourth quarter tied, the Chargers will kick a clutch field goal and the Broncos will have to start their game-winning drive. As they start to drive near the 50-yard line, like last week the offensive line will allow a sack, on a clear error, from Bosa on Wilson and then the Broncos will then fail to convert 4th and long. Chargers will win 27-24 as Denver fails to pick up a divisional win for the first time since 1970.