Who to Watch: Chargers at Broncos

Three players to watch Sunday in Denver

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The Chargers and Broncos finish the regular season on Sunday in Denver. Regardless of the result the team wearing orange will get to play another game while the other one goes home to pack up lockers and officially start the off-season.

This is the time of year Chargers fans have been anticipating and dreading in equal measure. They’ll soon learn the fate of their franchise’s future in America’s Finest City. But before that is resolved the Bolts have to answer this question: Does head coach Mike McCoy deserve to return for a 4th season?

It’s not hard to figure out what McCoy’s response is.

“Without a doubt,” said McCoy. “Without a doubt. With our players and our coaching staff here without a doubt we’ll turn this thing around. No doubt in my mind. We’ll be a lot better moving forward.”

It’s not hard to be a lot better, seeing as how McCoy has led the Chargers to the brink of a 4-12 record and a top-3 NFL Draft pick. There have been varying media reports claiming the Bolts plan on both firing and retaining McCoy so let’s forego speculation and just wait for Monday to see what the Spanos family decides to do.

In the meantime let’s focus on the guys between the white lines in this week’s three players to watch:

Melvin Ingram, OLB

Ingram enters the finale with 9.5 sacks. If even gets a share of a sack at Sports Authority Field he’ll be the first Charger to reach double digits since 2011 when Antwan Barnes had 11.0. Ingram has come on in a big way of late, recording 5.5 sacks in the last four games. The streak started when he dropped Broncos QB Brock Osweiler at Qualcomm. Ingram should have multiple chances to get to the big (6’8”) QB again. Osweiler has been sacked 22 times in just seven starts.

Danny Woodhead, RB/WR

I put the WR on there because Woodhead carries with him a very important responsibility. He has 704 receiving yards this year, making him the active leader on the roster (Keenan Allen is still the leader with 725 yards and he has not played since the first half of a game on November 1, giving you an indication of just how amazing his season was before he got hurt). The last time a Chargers team did not have a player reach 800 receiving yards was 2010 when injuries were so prevalent Rivers completed passes to 17 different receivers. Woodhead certainly has the ability to have a 96-yard day and with the Broncos pass rush being a ruthless as it is expect Rivers to be checking down to his human Swiss Army Knife with regularity.

Adrian Phillips, S

Eric Weddle and Darrell Stuckey were both placed on Injured Reserve this week so Phillips is suddenly the Chargers starting free safety. He has been watching and learning from Weddle all season, though, and showed flashes with three tackles against the Raiders. This will be his second start but the first time he’s known all week he’s going to be in there from the jump so it will be interesting to see just how good the undrafted kid from Texas can be.

Derek’s Prediction

The Broncos are playing for the division title and a home playoff game and, let’s face it; they’re the better team with the better coaching staff and will likely have the better game play. Since this is the final game of Malcom Floyd’s career and potentially the final game for Antonio Gates in a Chargers uniform I really want to say adrenaline and passion fuel the Bolts to a win.

So that’s exactly what I’ll do. Josh Lambo will make a 58-yard field goal to send the game to overtime and Rivers will hit Floyd on the first play for an 80-yard TD (because that number would just be too perfect) to give the Bolts a season-ending win.

Final score: Chargers 33, Broncos 27

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