Los Angeles Chargers vs Denver Broncos: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 7, 2017 at 11:53 PM
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KICKOFF: Monday, 10:20 p.m. ET, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. TV: ESPN, Beth Mowins, Rex Ryan, Sergio Dipp.

SERIES HISTORY: 115th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 63-50-1. The Chargers will play at Denver again representing Los Angeles for the first time since 1960. Few games between these teams will match the season opener in 1994, the season the Chargers went to their lone Super Bowl. That game set the tone of the year when the Chargers rallied from a 24-6 deficit, thanks in part to Stanley Richard returning an interception 99 yards for a score just before halftime. The Chargers sealed the unlikely win when Junior Seau recovered John Elway's fumble in the closing seconds.

KEYS TO THE GAME: In a game that features two new coaches, Vance Joseph for the Broncos and Anthony Lynn for the Chargers, an old storyline could help determine the winner: Which team wins at the line of scrimmage? The Broncos feature four new starters on the offensive line, including rookie left tackle Garrett Bolles and right tackle Menelik Watson, and the unit could have its hands full against Chargers dynamic pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bolles earned rave reviews during the preseason, but he will have to prove he can stay composed and avoid penalties under the bright lights of Monday night.

When the Chargers have the ball, all eyes will be on running back Melvin Gordon. Last season, Gordon tallied 205 rushing yards in two games against the Broncos, and he will need to maintain that triple-digit average for the Chargers to have a chance. Denver features one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL (see Von Miller), and if they are able to establish an early lead, they could control the rest of the game.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: --Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Broncos CB Aqib Talib. Allen tore his ACL during the season opener one year ago, and Monday night will mark his return. The California alum notched 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2013, but he has not broached that milestone since. Does he still have the same explosion he had before the ACL injury? Can he post 1,000 yards again? Monday should offer a hint.

--Broncos RBs C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles vs. Chargers LBs Korey Toomer and Nick Dzubnar. Anderson and Charles, once rivals, now team up to form a dynamic 1-2 punch, if both players can stay healthy. But the Chargers will not concede an effective running game to the Broncos, particularly with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley scheming the defense.

CHARGERS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Defensive back Desmond King. Only a fifth-round pick from Iowa, most thought he would need a good camp just to make the team. He did that and more, being around the ball for most of the preseason games. A safety and cornerback, King finished preseason with two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble, all the while showing his versatility. He'll likely start the season as the team's nickel back.

BRONCOS NOTABLE ROOKIE: Left tackle Garett Bolles. The first-round pick worked his way into the starting lineup by the end of training camp and will be a work in progress as he settles in on a revamped offensive line that will include at least three new starters. The Broncos are counting on his tenacity and energy being positives while Bolles learns how to avoid penalties -- something that was a problem in their second preseason game when he was whistled for holding three times in the first half.

FAST FACTS: Chargers TE Antonio Gates, who is tied with Tony Gonzalez with 111 touchdown receptions, needs one more catch in the end zone to break the all-time record for most touchdowns by a tight end.

Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will game plan against the team he used to coach, the Chargers, who replaced him with first-year coach Anthony Lynn.

San Diego QB Philip Rivers needs 401 passing yards to move ahead of Vinny Testaverde for 11th place on the NFL all-time list.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas has topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the past five seasons.

PREDICTION: In a tight game, the Broncos' defense proves to be the difference. Look for Von Miller & Co. to be disruptive, as usual, and the Broncos to hold on for a narrow win against a division opponent.

OUR PICK: Broncos, 20-16.

--Tom Musick

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