KUSA – Bleak as the Broncos’ chances of beating the Los Angeles Chargers may seem, remember this: It’s hard to win seven in a row in the NFL.
The Chargers have won six straight. Their 7-2 overall record is fourth-best in the NFL. Their only two losses were high-scoring affairs to the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams. No crime there as the Chiefs and Rams beat everybody in high-scoring affairs.
The Chargers haven’t played at home since October 7 – 42 days from their game at 2:05 p.m. MST Sunday against the Broncos. Since then, they’ve had three road games, a bye week and a “home” game in London.
Perhaps, the 25,400-seat Stubhub won’t be so homey for the Chargers on Sunday.
Here’s of Klis List of how the Broncos, a 7-point underdog, can pull off an upset against the Chargers:
The next point the Broncos notch at the Stubhub Center will be their first. They were shut out by the Chargers there last year, 21-0. Joey Bosa had two of the Bolts’ five sacks as Broncos’ emergency right tackle Allen Barbre had a tough day.
*Score more than 20 points
The Chargers’ defense has held opponents to less than 20 points in five consecutive games. And the Chargers won all five. Not many games are won in today’s NFL with less than 20 points.
It won’t be easy for the Broncos’ offense as they have three players playing at their unnatural positions along the interior offensive line. Billy Turner will get his second career start at left guard, Connor McGovern will get his first career start at center and Elijah Wilkinson will get his first career start at right guard.
*Contain Melvin Gordon
The first-round pick in the 2015 draft out of Wisconsin has stopped fumbling and is having a monster year. He ranks fifth in the league with 672 yards rushing on a 5.4-yard average. He also has 36 catches for another 361 yards. He has scored a combined 11 touchdowns.
After the Denver D allowed 323 and 270 yards rushing in back-to-back games to the Jets and Rams, it has been considerably stingier, allowing 69 yards rushing to the Cardinals, 49 to the Chiefs and 98 to the Texans.
The Broncos have had success against Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers when they’ve been able to harass him in the pocket. He does not escape well, and he’s been vulnerable to sack fumbles. He is 12-13 lifetime against the Broncos. Von Miller has 15.0 sacks of Rivers, nearly twice that of his second-most-dumped QB (Alex Smith, 8.0).
Rivers, three weeks shy of his 37th birthday, is playing extremely well this season, posting a 115.3 passer rating (21 touchdown passes against only four interceptions) that ranks third in the NFL behind only Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes II.
*Chris Harris Jr. locks down Keenan Allen
The Broncos’ top cornerback has been following the opposing No. 1 receiver of late and if the strategy continues, Harris’ assignment in this game will be Allen, who has 53 catches for 687 yards.
*Run, play-action pass
Given the concerns up front, the Broncos cannot give up on the running game, even if they’re behind. A steady dose of Phillip Lindsay, Devontae Booker and Royce Freeman at tailback, followed by Case Keenum throwing off the run-fake is about the offense’s only chance of succeeding.
*Win the kicking game
A touchdown punt return by Travis Benjamin was the key to the Chargers defeat of the Broncos at Stubhub last year.
It may also be important for Broncos kicker Brandon McManus to convert a field goal or two from inside the 50 after he’s had two weeks to stew on his two long misses against the Texans.