The 8-7 Chargers are at home this Sunday to host a 7-8 Broncos team that’s looking to play spoiler when it comes to L.A.’s hopes at sneaking into the playoffs. Denver’s chances at a postseason spot are slim to none with two games remaining but the Chargers still have some control in the matter. They must win their final two games while both Baltimore and Miami must lose at least once before the regular season ends.
The Broncos are potentially going to be short-handed on Sunday with a handful of starters currently on the reserve/COVId-19 list. At the same time, the Chargers have slowly been getting their guys back from the list as this week as progressed. By Sunday, who knows how much the scales will have tipped in either direction, but regardless, this is a must-win game for the Chargers.
As always, these are the three biggest things I’ll be watching for when the Bolts take the field this Sunday. Enjoy!
1.) Can the Chargers exploit a banged up Broncos secondary?
On Thursday, one of the four players the Broncos placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list was cornerback Bryce Callahan. Prior to that move, cornerback Ronald Darby and safety Kareem Jackson were both non-participants in Wednesday’s practice. On Thursday, Jackson returned in a limited fashion but is still dealing with a lingering shoulder injury.
On the same day the Broncos lost those four players to the COVID list, the Chargers got back Mike Williams and Michael Davis. The return of Williams give Justin Herbert his top two wideouts for this week alongside budding rookie Josh Palmer. Not having the likes of Darby and Callahan could spell a big day for Williams. In his presser, Keenan Allen said Williams gives them the “big yards” they were missing against the Texans.
Against this shoddy Broncos secondary, he’s got a shot to make Allen look like a very smart man.
2.) Will the Chargers reward Justin Jackson with more opportunities alongside Austin Ekeler?
In place of Ekeler for the better part of two games, Justin Jackson made the most of his opportunity. Across the past two games, he’s totaled 261 yards of offense and a pair of rushing touchdowns. After showing he can produce against top and bottom-tier teams, alike, will the coaching staff trust him with an increase in opportunities despite Ekeler’s return this week? Offensife coordinator Joe Lombardi has experience using multiple backs in the same formation going back to his time with both Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, so maybe it’s time to dig out those old plays and see what new looks you can give Denver?
3.) Will Justin Herbert break Philip Rivers’ single-season passing touchdown record?
Heading into Sunday’s game, Justin Herbert currently sits with 34 touchdown passes. That’s already a better number than the 31 he threw as a rookie, but what’d even crazier is that it’s only two away from breaking the franchise’s single-season passing touchdown record currently held by Philip Rivers. With two games remaining in this 17-game season, he’s bound to break it this week or next, but if he throws for two scores this weekend, he’ll have accomplished the feat within the old 16-game span. No asterisks would be needed.
At the same time, Herbert is 409 yards away from breaking Dan Fouts’ single-season record for passing yards, as well. Of course Herbert is likely to break that as well this year, but doing it in the same 16-game would be a pretty amazing feat for just his second season in the NFL.