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2017 AFC West Preview: Taking on the Broncos

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A way too early, way too optimistic look at the AFC West matchup vs the Broncos this year.

San Diego Chargers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Our friends over at Mile High Report put out an article this morning predicting that the Denver Broncos will sweep the Chargers this year. Before I start making counter points, lets look at why they might be right.

Recent History

Since the 2011 season, the Chargers are 3-10 vs the Broncos, including 1 playoff game. This includes the Broncos sweeping the Chargers in the 2012, 2014, and 2015 seasons.

The last time the Chargers swept the Broncos? 2010. And before that? 2007 and 2006. To get to the next Chargers sweep you have to go all the way back to the 1982 season. Ouch. Although, the Chargers would have swept the Broncos in 2008, had Ed Hochuli not made one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen. Thanks, Ed.

Injuries

As Tim Lynch points out in his piece for MHR, the Chargers have had terrible injury luck and cannot prove they’ve solved the injury problem until they get through the season without any major setbacks.

If they can stay healthy, this team has a ton of talent. But this team is dangerously thin at a couple positions (OT, CB, OLB) so they are going to have to hope they have warded off whatever bad luck has been hovering over this team.

New staff

The Chargers are coming off a 4-12 season and almost a complete overhaul of the coaching staff. New HC, New DC, New ST coordinator, New OL coach, New RB coach, New DL coach, New LB coach.

That’s a lot of change. That much change COULD make it hard to have an astronomical improvement as both the Coaches and the Players get used to not only the new systems but also just the way things are done.

With that being said...

There are some reasons to disagree.

Schrodinger’s injuries

Until it actually happens, you must assume everyone on the Chargers are both injured and not injured. This is because it’s true we can’t assume the Chargers are going to stay healthy, but as we cannot see the future, we also can’t assume knee’s and ankles are going to explode any second. Therefore, why not hope for the best and assume the Chargers will have much better availability from all of its key contributors this year.

Addition by subtraction

The Chargers were great at creating plusses by getting rid of negatives this offseason. Starting at the top.

Mike McCoy was given his walking papers. This is a huge plus. I know Matt Slauson has been saying that McCoy was a “scapegoat” of sorts last season, but that’s not the whole truth. McCoy was bad. He mad poor coaching decisions at critical times in games, and, at least outwardly, failed to get the most out of his players. This could also wind up being a win and a half because McCoy went back to Denver and will hopefully be able to “infect” the Broncos with some good ole McCoying.

The offensive line saw the departure of King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, and DJ Fluker. I was sad to see King go, as he battled for this team for a while, but it was time. His body was failing him and he just couldn’t keep up with the murderer’s row of pass rushers in the AFC West. Franklin meanwhile just didn’t live up to the big money contract the Chargers gave him a few years ago. Tom Telesco, probably with strong urging from Anthony Lynn, admitted the mistake by releasing Franklin a few weeks after the draft. Franklin performed poorly and wasn’t a fit with the new direction Lynn and his staff wanted to take the OL. Fluker was like Dunlap for me. He’s a great guy and I was sad to see him go, but it was time. Fluker had some injury problems, and like Franklin isn’t a good fit for the more athletic line the Chargers are trying to put on the field.

Plain old addition

The Chargers were pretty quiet in Free Agency but brought in 2 good names to help out. Russel Okung will come in and not only replace King Dunlap but very likely be an improvement. Then, just last week, the Chargers brought in Tre Boston at Safety. Boston is young, only 24, and is better in coverage than any other S the Chargers currently have on the roster. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Boston starting opposite Jahleel Addae by the time the season starts.

Then Tom Telesco and his staff put together an excellent draft. I'm still looking back on the list of names and smiling.

Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney are upgrades over Fluker and Franklin, but when you throw in Max Tuerk finally being cleared to play, you now have 4 players (Lamp, Feeney, Tuerk, and Slauson) all competing for the 3 IOL spots creating a great competition, and at worst, outstanding depth.

At WR the Chargers have added big bodied, contested catch monster, Mike Williams, while also getting back Keenan Allen. If they can stay healthy Philip Rivers will be the happiest man in LA having Allen, Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Hunter Henry, and Antonio Gates to throw too, while sitting more comfortably than last year behind a (hopefully) solidified line.

New Staff

I am re-using this because it is both a negative and a positive. I mentioned the negatives above, but it is pretty clear already that the new regime under Lynn will be a better one.

Lynn’s style is such a stark contrast to McCoy in every way, talking to the media, interactions with the players, philosophy. I get motivated to be better just listening to him talk about the players and when I see the pictures of him getting hands on in drills with players 1on1 from time to time, so I can only imagine players will be willing to battle for him.

But what does this all mean for playing the Broncos?

Well, to me, it means the Broncos will not sweep the Chargers. In fact, I could see the Chargers possibly sweeping the Broncos.

The Chargers open week 1 vs the Broncos in Denver, which should be the more difficult of the 2 matchups. Because this takes place so early in the season, even if the Chargers are unlucky enough to get bit by the injury bug during the season again this year *knocks on wood, throws salt over my shoulder* they should still have everyone available week 1.

The Broncos also have a new coaching staff this season, so that’s a scratch.

Denver lost Okung to the Chargers, however, they were able to bring in Ronald Leary at OG Menelik Watson at OT in FA and add Garrett Bolles in the draft. Even with those additions, Broncos OL wasn’t much better than the Chargers line was, but IMO improved less overall. Couple that with the fact that their choices at QB are Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Chad Kelly, they are going to be relying on their Defense to win games again.

The Broncos Defense is very good, they have a top 3 set of DBs, and plenty of pass rushers, including Von Miller who can take over games. However, on paper, the Chargers have an explosive enough offense to still put points on the board vs any defense, including the Broncos.

Looking at what should be the starting lineups for both teams, I think the Chargers Defense has a larger advantage over the Broncos offense, than the Broncos Defense may have over the Chargers offense.

At this (way too early) point in the offseason, I think at worst these 2 teams split the series, with a possibility of the Chargers getting their 3rd sweep of the Broncos since 2007.