Well, this is it. One more game and this nightmare season will officially be behind us (other than rooting against the Chiefs in the playoffs). With any luck, we’ll hopefully find ourselves enjoying an offseason with some significant good news. And at least, if nothing else, the Denver Broncos aren’t steering the ship straight at Disaster with their eyes wide open like the Raiders are.
That’s not to say that we haven’t been frequent flyers to Disaster this season. But at least we’ll be trying to avoid the place going forward. McDaniels & company... not so much.
Let’s take a look at some keys to victory in this final tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers.
#1: Keep scoring 24+
The Denver Broncos have scored 24 or more points just 3 times in the 2022 season, but all 3 of those games took place in the last month. There’s definitely some offensive momentum there, and the team will need to maintain it if they want to have any realistic shot at beating the Chargers on Sunday.
The Chargers have scored an average of 22.69 points per game this season, and that makes 24 point production the likely minimum threshold to win. Fortunately, Los Angeles has only met or exceeded that 24 point mark once in the last month- last week, when they beat the Rams 31-10. Yes, the same Rams team that drubbed the Broncos 51-14 the week before and got Nathaniel Hackett fired.
So... yeah. That’s a thing. Can I get an “Any given Sunday”?
#2: Run the ball well.
Winning in football is often a matter of exploiting matchups. Well, this week presents an interesting opportunity in that regard. The 3-of-4 24+ point performances line up perfectly with Denver’s current streak of 4 100+ yard rushing games. That ground and pound production has only led to 1 W in that timeframe, but it’s clear that good rushing and good offensive production have gone hand in hand here.
At the same time, the Chargers have allowed a league-worst 5.4 yards per rushing attempt this season. That screams opportunity. A healthy dose of smart, effective rushing can keep the defense fresh and keep Justin Herbert off of the field. Do enough of that and you become likely to win the game.
A lot depends on the Broncos’ patchwork RB-by-committee this week, as well as on Russell Wilson to perform with his legs as much as he does with his arm.
#3: Keep showing that fight.
Teams often seem to bounce up after their head coach gets fired, and that certainly seemed to be the case for the Broncos against the Chiefs last week. They could- and arguably should- have won that game if not for glaring incompetence by the referees.
For this Broncos team, part of that lift may be attributable to interim head coach Jerry Rosburg. He’s been a breath of fresh air over the last couple of weeks, and he had his team playing good football against one of the best teams in the NFL. If Rosburg can get more of the same out of this team in their final showing of the season, there’s a good chance it’ll lead to a win.
At this point in the season that win is all we can ask for. Draft picks will fall where they may, but I want to see the team head into the offseason on a high note. The whole slog has been a misery, but going out on top against a division rival would cut some of the bitterness here at the end.
Moreover, and as a bonus note: A win would mean avoiding the first complete division sweep of the Broncos in franchise history. It would mean 2022 was a very bad season, but not without some little shred of redemption at the end. Whereas a loss... well, a loss might just seal 2022 as the worst season in Broncos history.