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Chargers vs Broncos 5 questions: What does LA have to play for?

The Chargers have a playoff spot locked up, now it’s about seeding. Who is the best matchup for LA?

Come kickoff, this game may not matter.

If things go the Los Angeles Chargers’ way, Brandon Staley could sit his starters and wait for the start of the NFL playoffs. As for the Denver Broncos, the game means absolutely nothing.

DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as slight -3-point favorites. Since it seems LA could sit its starters, this line makes total sense. As for the total, that number sits at 40. Again, this is all about the key players not playing for the Chargers. Based on that, the under seems to be the smart play. For what it’s worth, the under is 11-5 in Broncos games this season.

To preview the game, we go behind enemy lines to get a feel for LA heading into the season finale and the best matchup in the playoffs with Michael Peterson from Bolts from the Blue.

MHR: How excited are fans to have the Chargers back in the playoffs?

Michael: After winning the AFC West four-straight times from 2006-2009, the Chargers have only made the playoffs three times since then, and that includes this year’s trip. The other two were 2018 and 2013. Luckily for the Bolts, they haven’t lost in the wild card round since 2004 and currently have a 6-1 record in the opening round of the playoffs since the turn of the century.

So yes, Chargers fans are definitely excited to be back in the playoffs. However, I do feel there is a bit of cautious optimism attached to this. In Anthony Lynn’s first two seasons with the Chargers, he won nine games his first year and barely missed the playoffs. The following year, he went 12-4 and won a playoff game. But then the wheels came off as he stumbled to a 5-11 season and a 7-9 campaign before being fired. Coincidentally, Staley won nine games his first year, barely missing the postseason, and now has double-digit wins with a playoff spot clinched. The biggest thing for Staley now is simply to continue this success past this season. If he can do that, then Chargers fans can truly start to get behind him as their leader into the future.

MHR: What is the best matchup for the Chargers in the Wildcard round? It looks like LA could either go to Cincinnati or Jacksonville.

Michael: The best matchup possible would be the Titans, but that means they’d have to beat the Jaguars in week 18 which is...not likely, to say the least. But if I had to pick between Cincy and Jacksonville, I’d definitely take the rematch against the Jaguars. To heck with the 38-10 score of their first meeting in week three. It’s no surprise the team looked emotionally deflated after watching two of their best players get helped off the field and their play certainly reflected that throughout the rest of the game.

But with the defensive playing much, MUCH better in recent weeks, I’ll certainly take another shot at a young quarterback who hasn’t been all that tested in recent weeks.

Joe Burrow and the Bengals just sound like a nightmare in the first round, as well. I know I just touted the Chargers defense, but no one wants to try and face a passing attack with three bonafide receiving threats on the outside. The trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd is one of, if not the best, in the NFL and I certainly don’t want that to be the first thing the Chargers see in the playoffs this year.

MHR: Tied into that, what will the approach be to Sunday’s game be for LA? Is there anything for the team to play for?

Michael: As of now, the only thing worth playing for is the chance to clinch the AFC’s No. 5 seed. However, since the Ravens and Bengals play in the early window before the Chargers, there’s a chance that the Ravens lose (which means L.A. clinches No. 5 seed no matter what) and that will allow the Chargers to rest their players against the Broncos.

Otherwise, they’ll simply be playing to add another notch in the win column. This is only the second double-digit win season of the past 13 seasons (2018) and it’d be nice to see them improve on last year’s record by multiple wins, especially in a year that was so brutally affected by injuries.

MHR: What is your best bet at DraftKings for Sunday’s game? And what do you make of the Chargers being the underdog?

Michael: I’m not terribly surprised that the Chargers are being held as underdogs in the game as I want to believe Vegas foresees them resting some starters, especially if the Ravens lose to the Bengals in the earlier window. I know the Broncos have a looked a little bit better in recent weeks, but nothing near enough to warrant being favorites over a healthier Chargers club.

As far as my best bet, I have an inkling that the Broncos will find some points on their first drive so I’ll take an offensive score of some kind in their opening sequence at +180.

MHR: What are your expectations/predictions for Sunday’s game?

Michael: I think this game might be just as close as the first matchup between these two teams. Games played between AFC West rivals are always super competitive and normally come down to the wire. Heck, just look at what the Broncos did against the Chiefs in week 17. They certainly made Kansas City sweat it out until the very end and I can easily see that happening again this week. Justin Herbert has been “fine” against the Broncos in his career and overall Denver has always played well when it comes to defending the Chargers’ passing attack.

If I had to throw out a final score prediction, I’d say Chargers win 20-17.

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