Chargers at Broncos: 3 Key Matchups

How Sunday's game in Denver will be won

The last time the Chargers and Broncos met, The Bolts put up silly box score numbers. They had 10 more 1st downs, ran 20 more plays, rolled up 154 more offensive yards, and controlled the ball for 15 and a half more minutes.

Denver won 23-22.

That’s because the Chargers turned the ball over twice and committed a comical 14 penalties. That game was played in Carson. This time they’ve moved to Denver, which should be a benefit for the Bolts because they’re 4-4 in games in Los Angeles and 7-0 when playing outside the City of Angels.

The Chargers know they’re in the playoffs but still have a shot to win the AFC West and secure the number one overall seed in the playoffs (which happens if they beat the Broncos and the Raiders beat the Chiefs) and that leads us to our first matchup of the day:

Chargers vs. Scoreboard Watching

Philip Rivers and Anthony Lynn both said during the week they were going to focus on the game at hand and not worry about what was happening at Arrowhead Stadium.

Sure, guys. We totally believe you. For sure.

Human nature will have them seeking updates on that Oakland-Kansas City game and it can be a problem … but also a benefit. If it’s a close game and the Raiders have a shot pull off an upset that could add pressure and get guys trying to make plays they’re not capable of making to get a win. But if it’s a blowout and the Chiefs are rolling to a win then Lynn can pull his guys to avoid injury because the outcome of this game doesn’t matter. Either way if the Chargers tell you they’re not keeping an eye on the out of town scoreboard they’re lying. That’s a lesson they learned from their owner.

Broncos vs. Complacency

Denver is 6-9. They’re not going anywhere except a possible top-10 pick. They said all the right things about trying to finish the season strong and playing for each other blah blah blah. Reality is when it’s the last game of the year and you’re not in the post-season most guys have at least half a foot out the door. Nobody wants to get hurt right before vacation starts.

Sure, some of the guys who don’t have roster spots secured will try to put one more game’s worth of tape out for NFL teams to look at. But again, human nature is a hard thing to fight. If enough Broncos are in the mindset of just getting this disappointing season over with then it could get ugly fast.

Chargers S Derwin James vs. Broncos OLB Bradley Chubb

These guys were both first round picks who have had immediate an measurable impacts so both are on the short-short list for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors (along with Colts OLB Darius Leonard). James is second amongst rookies in interceptions and leads all rookie defensive backs in sacks. Chubb is far and away the leader in sacks but hasn’t been asked to do a whole lot more than get after the quarterback.

If James or Chubb put together a monster game they can stake a claim to the award, even though Leonard will have the final game of the year, in prime time on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, to impress voters.

Derek’s Prediction

The Chargers are the better team but have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers and dumb penalties at horrible times. Still, the Broncos won’t have RB Phillip Lindsay (injury so Imperial product Royce Freeman starts in the offensive backfield) and with no post-season in the cards I don’t see them winning this.

Final score: Chargers 30, Broncos 17

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