The Chargers (3-2) and Broncos (2-3) are set for an AFC West divisional tilt under the lights in SoFi Stadium.
Some are calling this a “must-win” for either team, and I think that’s correct. The Chargers need to win this game to keep pace with the Chiefs while staying ahead in the win column so they can enter their incoming bye week with as much momentum as possible.
On the other side, the Broncos are coming off a brutally boring loss to the Colts while spending the majority of the season putting out a near-unwatchable offensive product on the field. A win against a team above them in the division standings could go a long way in turning their season around.
But allowing that to happen sounds awful so let’s hope the Chargers continue to crush the dreams of Broncos fans who put far too much money down on the team to make the playoffs this year, huh?
Below are the three things I’ll be watching closely once the Bolts take the field on Monday night.
1.) Mike Williams vs. Patrick Surtain II will be the positional matchup to watch
Williams will likely have his hands full with Surtain II this week as the second-year pro has been on quite the tear in recent weeks. The former Alabama defender has a season grade of 86.7 by Pro Football Focus and a coverage grade of 88.1. Both numbers are near elite and some of the best marks for a corner this season.
On the year, Surtain II has allowed just 143 yards in coverage on 19-of-31 targets thrown his way with zero touchdowns.
Williams has graded out at 75.0, which is fine, but it’s far from the upper echelon of NFL receivers. To be fair his grade could look much better than it is if it wasn’t for the dud he put out there in week one against the Raiders (45.3).
The connection of Herbert to Williams will be paramount in this game, especially if Keenan Allen is still unable to return.
2.) Will Melvin Gordon feast in a revenge game against his former team?
The answer is “probably not” but former Chargers have had a knack for beating up on their previous team when given the chance dating back through the 2021 season. Gordon, like the rest of the Broncos offense, hasn’t looked all that great through five games.
Gordon has rushed for 193 rushing yards on 52 attempts so far in 2022. That’s good for a 3.7 yards per tote and he has yet to rush for more than 58 yards in a game despite seeing double-digit carries in all but one contest. Those aren’t great numbers on the face, but all it takes is for the Chargers run defense to continue its’ string of lackluster performances for Gordon to see his first breakout game of the 2022 campaign.
If the Chargers are simply the product of a few bad plays, they’ll stop allowing massive runs to break this week. If not, then it’ll be the same song and dance for another week.
3.) Can Khalil Mack get back in the sack column against a backup left tackle?
Not only did the Broncos come out on the losing side of the insufferable 12-9 score of last Thursday’s primetime game, but they also lost starting left tackle Garrett Bolles to a season-ending injury.
A week ago, Khalil Mack and the entire Chargers defense failed to record a sack against Jacoby Brissett. They came close, but Brissett was able to squeeze out of every one of them. His main opponent in week five was Jedrick Wills. A fine offensive tackle. This week, Mack doesn’t have much of an excuse not to get after Russell Wilson.
Wilson has been sacked 16 times this season, good for the sixth-most in the NFL. With all of that coming before Bolles went down, Mack and whomever else will be getting after the quarterback better be salivating to record a takedown under the lights in primetime in front of their entire fan base.
The current depth chart of the Broncos shows that fourth-year tackle Calvin Anderson will be the one to replace Bolles. He played just seven snaps last Thursday and has 189 career snaps to his name since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He hasn’t given up a sack yet but owns 14 total pressures allowed.