Game Preview: Chargers @ Broncos, Chargers on Offense

Now that a quarter season has gone by, there is just barely enough collected stats to start comparing teams based on what they have done thus far in 2011(in four games). (All VOA, DVOA, YAR and DYAR statistical values are developed, calculated and reported by Football Outsiders. Their explanation can be found here.  Keep in mind defensive DVOA has it's polarity reversed, negative = good for defense DVOA)

Yards/Game Rank Overall DVOA Rank Points/Game Rank
Chargers Offense 406 7 10.50% 12 22.8 15
Broncos Defense 378 23 13.30% 24 27.8 29

 

Right off the bat, the high level stats tell us what we already know about the Chargers offense, they are elite (7th ranked) at moving the football, but only middling (15th ranks) at turning that yardage into actual points.  The overall numbers also show that the Broncos defense has no such inconsistency (they graciously like to hand out yards and points)!  I'm going to abuse a quote from Acee because he describes the Chargers side of the equation so well:

The Chargers have driven inside their opponents’ 20-yard line 17 times, the sixth-most red zone trips in the league. They’ve scored just 12 times, which ranks 29th in the 32-team league. Their eight red zone touchdowns rank 16th.

 

 

Of their five failures to score at all once inside the 20, two were due to interceptions, two to the inability to convert a fourth down and this past Sunday because they chose to take a knee at the end of the game.

Penalties have twice bit them. Once, they turned it over on downs after moving back out of the red zone. And this past Sunday, they went from what would have been second-and-goal at the 6-yard line to second-and-goal from the 21 because of a personal foul and ended up settling for a field goal.

The Chargers have had just 10 negative plays this season, and four of them have come in the red zone. That’s even more striking when you consider they have run just 41 red zone plays compared to 233 in the field’s other 80 yards .

As has been discussed at length on BFTB this week; it's a concern that the Chargers haven't stopped fumbling, they've just been lucking into recovering their own fumbles.  Maybe this is the week that the coachspeak about working hard and improving comes to reality.

Injuries:

Mile High Report has a decent injury report post.  The takeway of the Broncos injuries on defense is that the Broncos secondary will be largely intact, but dinged up.  The Chargers will be missing Antonio Gates, which only exacerbates the red zone problem.  Vincent Jackson will probably be limited in the way he was against the Dolphins.  Hopefully Patrick Crayton is ready to step up again, and Vincent Brown can build on his two catches against the Dolphins.

@sdutChargers: Norv Turner says he expects Vincent Jackson to play at least as many snaps as he did last week (22). #

Passing Game Breakdown:

Yards/Game Rank Passing DVOA Rank
Chargers Offense 315 5 27.70% 12
Broncos Defense 275 23 34% 31

 

Rushing Game Breakdown:

Yards/Game Rank Rushing DVOA Rank
Chargers Offense 102 18 2.90% 15
Broncos Defense 103 13 -14% 9

 

If there was ever an opponent that was gift wrapped for Norv to go Arena style, this would be it.  Pile on the fact that the aging, nicked up Broncos defense is only 24th in Interceptions (2 total) makes you want to see a 20/80 run/pass split.  Unfortunately we all know what Norv will do, the same thing he always does; work really hard to establish the run, throw away a few early drives, and then get bailed out by the Charger's (largely Rivers') league leading 58% third down conversion rate.  One question to ponder in the comments: whether or not the offense should keep evolving for this game (I sure hope halfback pass is next on the list), or if Norv should take the opponent lightly and save all the goodies until after the bye.

As you're watching the game this week, remember the following:

  • 1st down + Hester = run play
  • 2nd down + Mathews = run play, 2nd down + Tolbert = pass play (I just noticed this)
  • "11" personnel = pass play (with rare runs only ever on 1st down)
  • 3rd and 1 = fullback dive
  • Mathews/Tolbert Combo (Ramrod?) = yes moar plz
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