As Philip Rivers watched Drew Kaser fumble to lose the game, he mouthed on the sideline “We’re the bad new bears, man”, and he was absolutely right. So far the Chargers have defied astronomical odds to lose games this season, adding Sunday’s game against the Raiders to the list, losing again after leading in the second half.
It won’t get any easier for the Chargers (1-4) as they turn around and have to play the Broncos (4-1) on Thursday night. This is the Chargers only primetime game and they are rolling out their Color Rush Jerseys, which are a vibrant navy blue and bright gold which are a more current version of the jerseys worn in the 1980’s.
Even with only one win this season this game carries more importance than most, as many rumors speculate that this could be head coach Mike McCoy’s last game, regardless of the outcome, but he has to believe that a win might buy him more time.
For the first time in years the Broncos offense will play the Bolts without Peyton Manning which is great news because since he arrived in 2012, the Chargers have only won one of the nine games they have played. The Broncos will now turn to second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian who led this team to a 3-0 start before being injured in week four. Siemien has shown maturity beyond his years throwing only one interception since week one and having a 67.3 completion percentage on the year. On the outside, the Broncos have a pair of wide receivers that can do damage with Demaryius Thomas who has game-breaking speed and size but has struggled with inconsistency and drops, and Emmanuel Sanders who is undersized but finds ways to get open and leads the team with 32 catches. The Broncos have had major issues with their offensive line this season having allowed the fourth most sacks and allowing six sacks last week alone to the Falcons who only had four total sacks going into that game. C.J. Anderson has also struggled behind this line only averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season after never averaging less than 4.7 in any previous season.
The offense for the Chargers has actually been very good so far this season averaging 30.4 points per game, ranking second in the entire league, while also being in the top ten in offensive yards per game. The bad news is that the Chargers are leading the NFL with 14 fumbles, and have lost 8 of them, which has been a major contributor to the blown leads this year. Last week Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams exploded with a combined 12 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown, but this week I expect to see them limited by one of the best secondaries and defenses in the league. With the outside being a strength for the Broncos defense, look for the Chargers to use their two tight ends, Hunter Henry and Antonio Gates, to attack the middle of the defense. Melvin Gordon looked much better last week averaging 4.3 yards per rush but has shown again that fumbling is an issue. I expect this to be a grind-it-out game, so expect Gordon to get a heavy workload this week against a susceptible run defense.
Last season the Broncos defense carried them to a Super Bowl title, and this year they haven’t been as dominant, but they are still elite. So far they have only allowed 17.4 points, and 301 yards per game even after losing some major contributors to free agency. Denver’s secondary has been shutting down pass offenses all year only allowing an average of only 185.6 passing yards per game, led by cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. who both were invited to the Pro Bowl last season. You can run on the Broncos this season, however, as they rank 22nd in stopping the run and have given up six rushing touchdowns. You can’t talk about this defense without talking about Von Miller, who might be the best defensive player in the league, and has 6.5 sacks this season while recording at least half a sack in every game.
The Chargers defense looks to rebound after allowing 30+ points each of the last two weeks. They can’t be blamed entirely, because the offense has constantly turned the ball over on their own side of the field. They have had chances to bail out the offense but haven’t shown they can get off the field in crucial situations. One thing that will help them going forward is having Joey Bosa on the field more often. Coming off of his two-sack debut, Bosa, and the Chargers defense looks forward to getting after the quarterback against one of the worst pass-blocking lines so far this season. They will need a pass-rush to cover for a secondary that played last week without three opening-day starters in Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers, and Jahleel Addae. They were exploited against Oakland giving up 317 yards and two touchdowns, and could get exposed again this week by a good group of receivers.
This is the best team the Chargers have played this season, but they look a little bit vulnerable after losing for the first time. Considering all of the terrible luck that the Bolts have had this year, I believe they might actually run out of ways to lose this week. Chargers win at home 24-21.