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Chargers vs Broncos preview: Denver looks to rebound after crushing loss

Now that the hopes for the playoffs are all but dead, the Broncos close out the home schedule on Sunday.

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos are back in the all-too-familiar territory of playing meaningless games.

Denver had the chance to break the cycle at the end of the season and buckled under the pressure. And now that the playoffs are all but dead, the Broncos aren’t technically eliminated, here we are.

The Los Angeles Chargers are next on New Year’s Eve at Mile High.

DraftKings Sportsbook has as the home favorite. The Broncos are near a touchdown favorite over LA. The total sits at 39.5. The over has now hit in back-to-back games. That happening again seems unlikely.

Offensive Rankings

LA Chargers: Eighteenth in overall offense (329.7 yards per game), 24th in rushing offense (95.9 YPG), 13th in passing offense (233.8 YPG), tied for 17th in scoring offense (21.7 points per game).

Denver: Twenty-fifth in overall offense (298.2 yards per game), 14th in rushing offense (110.7 YPG), 25th in passing offense (187.5 YPG), 16th in scoring offense (21.8 points per game).

Defensive Rankings

LA Chargers: Twenty-ninth in total defense (372.6 yards per game), 17th in rushing defense (113.3 YPG), 30th in passing defense (259.3 YPG), 26th in scoring defense (24.6 points per game).

Denver: Thirtieth in total defense (376.2 yards per game), 31st in rushing defense (141.1 YPG), 24th in passing defense (235.1 YPG), 29th in scoring defense (25.1 points per game).

Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.

Show up

Yes, the Broncos cared about the game against the New England Patriots. However, how they played and the effort makes it hard to believe that statement. Christmas Eve was basically a playoff game, and that’s how Denver plays. The game is meaningless, but show up. The Broncos need to coach and play like they should have against New England. The loss to the Patriots stings, but it’s how incompetent the whole team looked. Do your job. Be better. Show up. — Ian St. Clair

How about Sean Payton do a better job calling plays

Is the offense limited? Sure. Is that an excuse for the horrible play calling? Not as far as I can tell. Payton has to be better. If you’re going to light up players on the sidelines you better not also be part of the problem. — Adam Malnati

Win the turnover battle

Obviously, this is for every game, but in December we lost the ball more in dumb plays and we have not created as many turnovers as in November. That needs to change on Sunday. — Ivan Talavera

Work the medium passes

The most success that the Broncos had on offense on Sunday came during their two fourth-quarter drives where Russell Wilson was able to look like a quarterback and hit 13-yard, 15-yard, and 16-yard passes and drive the ball downfield. This is probably the area that the Broncos are the worst in and they might as well try to work it with just two games left to go. — Ross Allen

Dial up more running back screens and go routes

Why? Because Russell Wilson can’t do anything else with any measure of consistency. He will create pressure for himself even if the pocket is clean and look to dump it off to a running back to chuck it deep anyway.

You might as well try to make that the playcall to begin with. Currently, Russell Wilson is pressured within 2.5 seconds at a rate that is 24th in the NFL (Good OL!). Only 34 times was Wilson pressured within that timeframe. However, if he held the ball longer than 2.5 seconds, he was pressured 184 times which was 4th worst in the NFL (Bad QB!). Even worse, he has the second most ‘turnover worthy’ plays when getting rid of the ball within that 2.5 second window.

Here’s another stat that shows why Wilson and Payton will never mesh well together.

If you watch the tape, Payton has not lost his ability to scheme offenses in the NFL. There are guys open, but Wilson doesn’t see a majority of the field and those opportunities are consistently lost. Jerry Jeudy is likely a bust now because of that. So yes, I am moving on from Russell Wilson, but for the final two games Sean Payton should just dial up what Wilson can do - which isn’t much and hopefully they can still come out with a second-place finish in the AFC West. — Tim Lynch

What are your keys to Sunday’s game?