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

By The Sports Xchange  |  Oct. 19, 2017 at 4:37 PM
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DENVER BRONCOS (3-2) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (2-4)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, StubHub Center. TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Amanda Balionis (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 116th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 64-50-1. The Broncos return to Los Angeles to play the Chargers under the Los Angeles name for the first time since 1960. The Chargers swept the series that season and went on to win their first four against the Broncos. More recently, Denver has had the upper hand, winning seven of the last eight. The Broncos prevailed 24-21 in the season opener this year.

KEYS TO THE GAME: After losing their first three home games in a four-game skid, the Chargers have gotten plugged in the past couple of weeks.

The Chargers are going to take aim at a Broncos run defense that was exposed in a loss to the Giants, giving up 148 yards. The Giants gashed the Broncos repeatedly as Orleans Darkwa became the first running back to gain over 100 yards on the Broncos this season.

The Chargers would love to keep Philip Rivers out of third-and-longs by being successful on the ground on the early downs. Melvin Gordon figures to get plenty of work.

The Broncos struggled to run the football early last week, gaining just 12 yards on their first five first-down rushing attempts.

Denver still ranks ninth in the league in rushing offense and second in rushing defense despite its struggles last week, and the Chargers rank 32nd in rushing defense and 31st in rushing offense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Broncos offensive line vs. Chargers DE Melvin Ingram and DE Joey Bosa. Ingram and Bosa have combined for 13 sacks this season. Three came vs. Denver in Week 1, mostly at the expense of right tackle Menelik Watson, who is battling a calf injury. If Watson is sidelined, Donald Stephenson and Allen Barbre will be the relief options. The Broncos had some success with plays that forced Ingram into coverage on occasion in Week 1, and their ground game was effective enough to take some of the edge off the Chargers' pass rush. But, with Trevor Siemian's left shoulder still sore after he hit the ground hard last week, this is a worrisome matchup for the Broncos.

--Broncos LBs Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis and Corey Nelson and DBs Justin Simmons, Will Parks and Darian Stewart vs. Chargers TEs Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Although the Broncos contained Gates and Henry in Week 1, they have had trouble stopping tight ends in recent weeks, giving up touchdowns to Dallas' Jason Witten, Buffalo's Charles Clay and the New York Giants' Evan Engram.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos NT Domata Peko. He has been an ideal fit for the center of the Broncos' defensive line, providing a massive presence on the interior that they lacked last year with Sylvester Williams working at nose tackle. With Peko working mostly in the team's base defensive alignment, the Broncos have allowed just 2.8 yards per carry. Peko is also effective at setting up his fellow defensive linemen when the Broncos are in pass-rush situations; last week he flushed Eli Manning to the left side of the pocket, setting up defensive end Adam Gotsis for a sack.

FAST FACTS: Denver QB Trevor Siemian passed for a career-high 376 yards in Week 6. In the last meeting, he threw two TD passes and ran for a TD. In his past six games vs. the division, he has 10 passing TDs and four interceptions. ... WR Demaryius Thomas had 10 catches for 133 yards last week. He has six TD catches in the past five road meetings. ... LB Von Miller had a sack last week and has five sacks in the past four games. He has 13 sacks in 13 career meetings. ... CB Bradley Roby has two interceptions, including one for a TD, in the past two meetings. ... San Diego QB Philip Rivers has thrown for 873 yards (291 per game), six TDs and one INT in the past three games. He needs 37 completions to pass Hall of Famer Warren Moon (3,988) for eighth in NFL history. ... RB Melvin Gordon had 150 scrimmage yards and two TDs last week. He has 328 scrimmage yards (109.3 per game) and a TD catch in the past three meetings. Since 2016, he is the only player with at least 12 rushing TDs (13) and five TD catches (6). ... WR Keenan Allen has four TD catches in the past four meetings. He ranks fifth in the AFC with 446 receiving yards. ... LB Jatavis Brown has 37 tackles (12.3 per game), a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery in three career meetings.

PREDICTION: The Broncos should assert themselves in the ground game again.

OUR PICK: Broncos, 23-20.

--Chris Cluff

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