The San Diego Chargers (4-11) dismal season finally comes to a close this weekend as they head to the Mile High city and take on the Denver Broncos (11-4). The Bolts are coming off extended rest as they played in the Christmas Eve Thursday Night Football game, and fell to the Oakland Raiders in OT 23-20. With another close loss the Chargers are now tied with the Baltimore Ravens for most losses by 8 points or fewer this season, with 11. Eleven!
The Broncos, on the other hand, come in with a short week after beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football 20-17 in OT. That win gives them a playoff berth but they are still playing for the AFC West divisional crown, as the red-hot Chiefs have won 9 in a row now and play the Raiders Sunday.
When: Sunday January 3, 1:25 pm PT
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
The Line: Chargers (+9)
History: The Broncos now hold a 62-49-1 advantage in the all-time series with their win in San Diego just a few weeks ago. The Chargers held the Broncos scoreless in the second half, but the offense could not get it going in the 17-3 loss. Philip Rivers also threw his fifth pick-six of the season as Danny Trevathan took it back to the house.
Wide out Dontrelle Inman has become the go-to guy for Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense over the past two weeks. He had 3 receptions for 78 yards against Miami two weeks ago, and Thursday against the Raiders caught 8 balls for 82 yards and a TD. Not to mention he played safety in OT in that game Thursday, stepping up when there was not too many healthy bodies left for them. He’s making his mark at the end of this season and this momentum will hopefully carry into training camp next season.
Speaking of wide receivers, Vincent Brown was released today. He was signed on December 8th and played the first week, catching one pass for 22 yards against the Chiefs but was inactive for the last two weeks. The Chargers will continue to look at the young wide outs in Inman and Tyrell Williams.
With Melvin Gordon sidelined, Danny Woodhead put up over 100 yards of offense on Thursday. Contributing 55 yards on the ground and another 53 through the air, Woody continues to be a threat out of the backfield for the Chargers and has been underutilized it seems for most of the year, but has looked great at the end of the season. He will have to play a big part Sunday if the Bolts want to upset the Broncos.
Tight end Ladarius Green was placed on IR with an injured ankle ending his season a bit early. The Chargers claimed Asante Cleveland off the Patriots waivers and also signed Sean McGrath from the practice squad to shore up the TE position. Green ended the year with 37 catches for 429 yards and four TD’s.
This unit has played well in the home stretch of the season (they always do don’t they?), but they will be without their captain as Eric Weddle was placed on IR (along with DL Sean Lissemore) , ending his final season as a Charger by the looks of things.
The Chargers have really excelled in getting to the quarterback during this impressive stretch run. Jerry Attaochu and Melvin Ingram have provided a strong pass rush off the edge, allowing the
defensive backs to play aggressive. Ingram leads the team with 9.5 sacks this season, while Attaochu isn’t far behind with 6.
Denzel Perryman continues to show that he could be the real deal at middle linebacker. He paced the team last week with 11 tackle and a sack. If there’s any reason to watch the Chargers close out the season, it’s to see the young core defenders in Perryman, Te’o and Verrett play.
The main thing will be ending the game with enough healthy bodies, especially in the secondary. Matt Daniels, a second year player out of Duke, was signed off the practice squad as well and could end up seeing some playing time in the season finale.
Brock Osweiler has had his fair share of ups and downs, but he has a OT win over the Patriots and Bengals so far this year and is 4-2. Osweiler has thrown for over 1,700 yards and 9 TD’s with just 4 Int’s (Peyton has thrown for 9 TD’s but an NFL leading 17 Int’s before he went down with the injury). The problem is he is getting sacked a lot and not getting rid of the ball quick enough. He’s already been sacked 22 times in a handful of starts.
The Broncos offense did something in the second half of the Bengals Defense they haven’t done a lot of since Manning went down, went into the hurry up offense. We will see if they continue to do that on Sunday or slow it down for the young QB
C.J Anderson has come up big again down the home stretch, he scored the go-ahead TD early in the 4th quarter in the win over Cincinnati. The Chargers have been gashed all season on the ground, but in the first meeting Anderson left the game early in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Expect to see another heavy dose of Anderson and try to limit Osweilers attempts against a decent secondary in the Chargers (if they were all healthy it’d be far above average).
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders path the Broncos on the outside, they have both eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark this season. Thomas also has 100 receptions while Sanders has reeled in 71 and 6 TD’s to boot.
The Broncos are the number 1 scoring defense and lead the NFL in sacks with 49 of them. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware keep the pressure on opposing QB’s from their outside linebacker positions. Miller leads the team with 10 sacks, while Ware has 6.5 on the season.
In the secondary the formidable duo of Chris Harris Jr. and Aquib Talib lock down the opposing receivers. It’s going to be a tough matchup for the Chargers banged up unit of receivers to get separation. Talib has picked off three passes along with 13 pass breakups, while Harris has two picks of his own. The Broncos defense has only allowed one 300 yard passer all season.
Inside linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan both have over 100 tackles on the season and pace the entire defense with their hustle and hard-hitting.
What We’re Watching:
The Chargers pass rush against a banged up and suspect Broncos offensive line. I’m hoping Ingram and Attaochu can both add to their season sack totals with a couple each. The Broncos right tackle was getting beat on almost every play against Geno Adkins, who of course is a way better pass rusher than anyone the Chargers have, but I know Ingram has been playing extremely well and can beat him. Plus, Osweiler has a tendency to hold the ball too long and can take bad sacks.
It’s going to be close but Broncos, on a short week, hold on 23-20. Giving the Chargers their 12th loss by 8 points or less to close the season.