For many years we have done previews of the upcoming Chargers game looking at strategies and players that will have an impact on their chance to win that week’s game. Usually it was done with a hopeful tone because they were San Diego’s team.
That is no longer the case and the Chargers are really no longer our team so as the NFL is evolving, so must we evolve. This year we’ve enlisted the help of Fernando Ramirez for a kind of back-and-forth analysis with Derek Togerson.
Fernando will share three keys for the Chargers to win … Derek will counter that with three keys for the Chargers opponents to win. This week it’s the Bolts in Denver against the Broncos so let’s start with the visitors.
Chargers Key 1: Do NOT Turn the Ball Over
Denver is not a team you want to turn the ball over on. Last season they were top 10 in takeaways with 27 and turned four of those into touchdowns. The Broncos defense is led by former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, but all three of the team’s cornerbacks are dangerous. Chris Harris Jr. maybe undersized, but he is one of the best in the league. Aqib Talib said after Wednesday’s practice that no matter what happened in the offseason that Denver is still a “no fly zone.” Last season was not quarterback Philip Rivers best at taking care of the ball having thrown 21 interceptions, which led the NFL. If they hope to compete with Denver he will have to be on top of his game.
Broncos Key 1: Release the Hounds
The Chargers offensive line is a bunch of blocking sleds and turnstiles. I was at that Raiders vs. Titans game on Sunday and saw what two fantastic offensive lines look like. The Bolts don’t have one. Von Miller and that Denver front seven needs to be as relentless as possible in getting after Philip Rivers, who is arguably the toughest man in the NFL. The Broncos can provide a pounding that makes even him nervous. If the Broncos can get five or more sacks, they will win this football game.
Chargers Key 2: Run, run, run the Football
Every defense has a weakness and for this defense it is defending the run. The Broncos were at the bottom five against the run allowing 130 yards per game. All of season Chargers third year running back Melvin Gordon has talked about how hungry he is and that the end of last season left a bad taste in his mouth. Last Season Gordon was three yards away from his first 1,000 yard season, but was not allowed to play in the season finale by then head coach Mike McCoy. The Chargers offensive line must hold up strong against that Denver defense and let Gordon run wild.
Broncos Key 2: Control the Clock
The Broncos offense is not going to be lighting people up this year. Quarterback Trevor Siemian is by no means a dynamic passer. He’s a guy you look to just to get you through a game, not go out and win it for you. He’s at his best when he’s making safe throws and handing the ball off. Denver needs to stay on the field by prolonging drives that finish with points. The Chargers defense is talented I the starting 11 but by no means deep. If the Broncos can keep that unit on the field for a while, in the heat, at altitude, the effects will be seen late and result in big plays.
Chargers Key 3: Make Siemian Uncomfortable
It is no secret that Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian isn’t John Elway but he's still a serviceable quarterback when he has time. Last season, Siemian was sacked 40 times, which was ninth highest in the NFL. Recently re-signed defensive end Melvin Ingram and last year’s rookie defensive player of the year Joey Bosa must wreak havoc on Siemian. If he feels the pressure he will start committing mistakes and the secondary will feed off of them. Pro-Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward did have a pick six in Denver last season.
Broncos Key 3: Neutralize Henry
Tight end Antonio Gates needs one touchdown to break his tie with Tony Gonzalez for the most TD catches as a tight end in NFL history. The Chargers are going to try to get that done in front of a national TV audience and you KNOW Rivers would like nothing more than to get his old friend into the end zone as quickly as possible. But the real threat is going to be Hunter Henry. If the Broncos spend too much time trying to keep Gates out of the history books (and don’t think for a second they don’t know about it) the younger Henry will burn them.
24-17 Chargers. Anthony Lynn wins his first game as an NFL head coach.
16-10 Broncos. Vance Joseph wins his first game as an NFL head coach.