Roundtable: Broncos need a lot to go right against Chargers

Credit: Reid Neureiter

The Broncos are back. Again! The declaration from BSN Denver’s Ryan Koenigsberg at the start of the season usually instills excitement for the return of Broncos football, confidence soars, and we begin to make tentative plans to be there when our team makes another Super Bowl.

The way 2018 has panned out during the nine games before the bye week, it is getting tougher to stay up late and be excited by what Vance Joseph’s Denver Broncos are doing.

Alas, the Broncos are back so we rounded up Michael McQuaid, Colum Cronin, Ben Corcoft, Andrew Lewis and Mark Tonge — our resident armchair head coaches — to weigh in on the Broncos’ trip to Los Angeles to take on the in-form LA Chargers.

VJ: Poor record? I don’t see it like that. I’m still having the time of my life

Are the Broncos better than their record suggests?

Colum: No. There are some impressive individuals on the roster but there are obvious gaps all over the field.

That is compounded by the worst group of coaches in the NFL: Vance Joseph, Joe Woods and Bill Musgrave: The Three Stooges. 

Michael: The team and the talent are better than the record suggests, however the coaching staff — notably Joe Woods and Vance Joseph — are the reason that this team is 3-6.

Numerous games stand out. The home losses to Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams and Houston, the team was not too far off a win, but the coaching decisions cost the team in each game.

With each loss that occurs, the confidence level for the players decreases. It will take a lot to get the team back where they need to be. 

Mark: The Broncos are better than their record suggests when it comes to the players’ ability and effort. Where we aren’t better is on the coaching side. Vance Joseph seems well out of his depth and less said about Joe Woods the better.

Woods inherited a Super Bowl defense and has molded it into an average machine. If we could get the play calling right then we would be a much better team.

We have superstars on the team: Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr, Domata Peko, Derek Wolfe, Bradley Chubb, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Case Keenum — on his day. We’ve also been in a lot of games this year where we’ve lost by the odd score, and against good teams too.

If our play calling and game management were better we could’ve won those games and who knows where we could have gone this season.

Andrew: In short, no. There’s a famous Bill Parcells quote, “You are what your record says you are”. For the Broncos it’s quite apt.

It’s easy to play “what if” but this Broncos team has several fatal flaws which can’t be masked: the quarterback position, the coaching staff, the offensive line, and inconsistent play on defense.

It hasn’t been a totally lost season, Phillip Lindsay looks like a real talent and the emergence of Courtland Sutton left the Broncos with enough confidence to trade away Demaryius Thomas.

When healthy, the interior offensive line trio of Connor McGovern, Matt Paradis, and Ron Leary was a difference maker in the run game.

The Broncos are what they say they are but in the era of free agency they aren’t a million miles away from being back where they belong.

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What are the key matchups?

Colum: Broncos offensive line vs Chargers pass rush. The Chargers have 15 sacks over the past four games and are welcoming back Joey Bosa. The Broncos are now having to utilize the backups to the backups on the O Line so it could be a long afternoon for Case Keenum, who has been slow to release the ball all season. 

Ben: Broncos run defense vs Melvin Gordon. The Chargers boast one of the more bruising backs in the league in Gordon, who has played a huge part in their hot streak, putting together a five-game streak of 120-plus total yards from scrimmage and touchdown, an achievement not seen since Jamaal Charles in 2013.

We saw how badly the Isaiah Crowell (NY Jets) and Todd Gurley (LA Rams) gashed the Broncos for 200+ yards each earlier in the season, and there has to be a real fear factor that the fourth-year pro on a red-hot streak could also have a monster day.

Gordon has already amassed 697 yards and seven rushing touchdowns from 125 carries (5.4 yards/average) through eight games — he missed the week 7 win over the Tennessee Titans —as well as weighing in with four touchdown receptions from 36 catches, racking up a healthy 361 yards.

If the Chargers can establish the run game early through Gordon, it could be another very long night for Broncos fans in Europe.

Mark:  Chris Harris Jr on Keenen Allen is the biggest matchup. Allen leads his team in receiving yards and catches. It’s important for CHJ to stop his big-play ability and to shut him down early.

We can’t afford for him to improve on his 13-yard a reception average. Saying that, CHJ is more than capable of keeping him quiet. 

Von Miller on Philip Rivers, of course, is also key to the game. If the Broncos can get pressure on Rivers and get him on the ground early doors, then we could be in for a field day of sacks.

Bradley Chubb coming in from one side and Miller on the other should keep the Chargers QB on his toes. Miller has sacked Rivers more than he has sacked any other QB. That’s surely a good sign right?

With the news that Joey Bosa will have some impact on the game — his first of the season — this vastly improves the Chargers pass rush. Melvin Ingram on one side and Bosa on the other is another big-play tandem.

It also plays into Keenum’s strength as he’s at his best when he’s outside the pocket. Hopefully, Keenum will decide to sense the pressure today and can evade the lethal pass rush. 

Michael: Royce Freeman going up against fellow rookie Derwin James, who is arguably up for nomination with Bradley Chubb in the NFL defensive rookie of the year nominations.

Freeman currently leads the Broncos in rushing touchdowns and averages 4.4 yards a carry. James currently has 3.5 sacks so far this season, with one interception. It is going to be interesting to watch.

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb need to have a big day for the Broncos to leave LA with a  win

What needs to happen for the Broncos to leave LA with a win?

Andrew: For the Broncos to win games, the formula is simple: run the ball, convert third downs and win the turnover battle.

The Chargers have an embarrassment of riches at the receiver position and Rivers is playing the best football of his career.

The game will be decided by big plays on defense; a fumble recovery, a pick six. The Broncos offense will not be able to hang with the Chargers in a straight shootout.

Michael: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Joey Bosa, Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Vance Joseph and Joe Woods need to have food poisoning and therefore not be able to show up at the game for medical reasons. The Broncos haven’t a chance.

Colum: Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have to repeatedly hit Philip Rivers. The run defense has to show up, and the Broncos need at least two turnovers.

The Broncos will need to lean heavily on Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, and Courtland Sutton to have any chance of an upset victory.

Ben: The Chargers are strong on both sides of the ball and their form shows it. With Josey Bosa back for his first game of 2018, it won’t be easy for the Broncos’ offense, and we all remember what happened the last time Vance Joseph took a team to the StubHub Center.

Bill Musgrave and Joe Woods need to call a perfect game and the players need to execute. No stupid penalties, no turnovers on offense, no blown coverages on defense.

The Broncos need to win on both sides of the ball, and win often. If they can do that, they have a chance to leave LA with a rare road win, however unlikely it might appear.


Ben: Joseph has no idea how to stop Rivers, Gordon, and the rest of the electrified Bolts. Chargers win 31-20, handing Joseph yet another road defeat, one defeat closer to well-deserved pink slip.

Mark: A win for the Broncos, of course. It will be a tight affair but the Broncos rank pretty well in big play succession so a couple of those, mixed in with the Denver defense turning up early should lead to a Broncos 28-24 win

Michael: Chargers will win 34-10. It will be close at the start, but numerous offensive errors will cost the team. Case Keenum has thrown a pick in every game bar one this season.

It is very hard to not see him doing the same against the Chargers. The combination of Rivers and Gordon is just too good for this team.

Colum: Chargers to win it 30-17. A six-game win streak and a slew of weapons versus the Broncos’ road record under Joseph.

Andrew: Chargers win 27-17. Ultimately the Chargers simply have too much firepower on offense for the Broncos to hang. The return of Joey Bosa spells trouble for Keenum.

About Paul Thomas 202 Articles
Paul is one of Broncos Europe's main contributors, based in London, England. When not providing us with the latest Denver Broncos news, he can be found in a sports bar watching any sport. A long-time Broncos fan, he tries to forget many of the bad pre-Manning years.

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