By Jeremy Gonzalez, Sports Editor
Yes, we know this preview is one week late. Traveling to Houston for another article pushed back the normal publishing day for this column. The Bulletin thought we should still put it up so that our recap can reflect if our predictions came true.
Broncos vs. Chargers, 1:05 p.m. Dignity Health Sports Park, CA, CBS.
Chargers record: 2-2. The Chargers took care of business in Miami and got back to .500 as they routed the Dolphins 30-10.
Broncos record: 0-4. The Broncos surrendered 225 rushing yards to Jacksonville RB Leonard Fournette and conceded a last-second field goal as they were defeated by the Jaguars 26-24 at home.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon could not have picked a more perfect time to make his return to the Los Angeles backfield. The former Pro Bowl running back is expected to see his first touches of the season on Sunday when the Chargers host the Denver Broncos, who have yet to win a game this season. Regardless of the records, divisional matchups should never be taken lightly, and this AFC West matchup is no different. Gordon held out for 64 days due to a contract dispute before reporting back to the Chargers on Sept. 26, was moved to the active roster two days later, and suited up in Miami for week 4 but did not play a single snap against the Dolphins.
Gordon will face a Broncos defense that is weak against the run, ranking as the third worst team in the league against the run after allowing Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette to hit a career best 225 yards last week. Gordon has had two career games against the Broncos where he reached 155 scrimmage yards or more. One of those games came last season, when he had 156 (69 rushing, 87 receiving) in a loss to Denver. One thing to keep an eye on is the fifth-year running back has totaled 120 or more scrimmage yards in six of his last seven games against divisional opponents.
Gordon also comes back to a team that did not miss a beat in the running game while he was gone. Austin Ekeler ranks fifth in scrimmage yards (490) and has scored six touchdowns this season.
Dynamic Duo No More
The Broncos defense was home to one of the most fearsome pass-rushing duos in the NFL with Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. However, that is no longer the case as Chubb tore his left ACL last week and has been ruled out for the rest of the season, requiring season-ending surgery. The duo had racked up 29.5 sacks in 20 games together. Chubb’s replacement will be a rotation of rookies Malik Reed and Justin Hollins, along with sixth-year veteran Jeremiah Attaochu, who played for the Chargers from 2014-17. Miller will most likely be shuffled around the defensive line to counter increased double-teams and create mismatches and give his teammates an opportunity to make an impact.
The Chargers have opened up their season at 2-2 for a second straight season, and if Los Angeles wants any hope of keeping up with the division leaders, the Kansas City Chiefs, they need a win over the Broncos. The Chargers are 19-6 the past two seasons under current head coach Anthony Lynn in games played after September. Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is off to the worst start by a first-year head coach in franchise history. This is only the fourth time a Broncos team has opened up their season 0-4.
The Chargers have a total of 10 players on injured reserve or the reserve/non-football illness list, including three starters. They could be without four more starters against Denver. Defensive end Melvin Ingram has already been ruled out by a hamstring injury he suffered last week against Miami, while wide receivers Mike Williams (back) and Travis Benjamin (knee) will most likely be game-time decisions.
Phillip Rivers is tied for third in the league in passing yards with 1,274 while receiver Keenan Allen is tied in receptions (34) and leads in yards (452). Rivers has thrown for over 300 yards in the last two games, also throwing for at least touchdowns in those games while reaching a passer rating over 100.0. Rivers has thrown 44 touchdowns in his career against Denver, second most against one team.
Opening: LAC -7.0, 43.5 total. Saturday night: LAC -5.5, 44.5 total.
The Lightning Rod Pick: Considering Gordon and Rivers have had past success against the Broncos, and Denver is only getting weaker, the Chargers should win the divisional matchup at home. Gordon rushes for over 100 yards in his first game back as the offense continues to maintain a balance of rushing and passing.
Chargers 28, Broncos 14.