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After the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers have a chance on Monday night to match their division rivals with a 4-2 record. Standing in their way is another division rival: the Denver Broncos

Denver is coming off a disastrous loss to the Indianapolis Colts last week, and is in danger of allowing its season to spiral out of control if it can't right the ship offensively, and soon. The Chargers defense has been very forgiving to opponents so far this year, particularly on the ground, so perhaps there's a chance for the Broncos to get something going. Of course, merely showing some improvement may not be enough to keep up with Justin Herbert and Co., so Russell Wilson would surely rather start showing some of the explosion we expected from this group before the season began. 

Will the Chargers capture a victory at home, or will the Broncos pull off an upset on the road? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, let's break down the matchup. 

How to watch

Date: Monday, Oct. 17 | Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Location: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, California)
TV: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (try for free)  
Follow: CBS Sports App 
Odds: Chargers -4.5, O/U 45.5 (courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook)

When the Broncos have the ball

I have written more than enough about the Broncos offense this season. Suffice to say, things have not been going well. Here's an excerpt from the most recent story

The early-down passing attack has been abysmal, with [Russell] Wilson completing just 65 of 114 passes (57%) for 775 yards (6.8 per attempt), two touchdowns and an interception on first and second down. He's 25th in EPA per dropback among 32 qualified quarterbacks. On plays where he has not been blitzed, he's been off target with 13.8% of his throws, a mark nearly three percentage points worse than league average. Worse yet, the pass catchers are not really getting open: Wilson has had to throw into tight windows on 18.2% of his throws, according to's Next Gen Stats -- the ninth-highest rate in the NFL.

Wilson has struggled with play-action passing (24 of 46 for 421 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a dropped interception, and he's just 21st out of 32 qualifiers in EPA per dropback); passing against defenses that do not send a blitz (81 of 138 for 885 yards, two touchdowns, two picks, two dropped picks, 22nd in EPA per dropback); and especially throwing against zone coverage (83 of 135 for 879 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, two dropped interceptions, 28th in EPA per dropback).

The best way to attach the Chargers is on the ground, but there's more bad news on that front: 

[Melvin] Gordon has been dreadful, with a 3.7-yards-per-carry average, four fumbles (one of which was returned for a touchdown by the Raiders), a 21% negative rush rate (league average is 18.7%) and just two explosive gains on 52 carries (a 3.8% rate that ranks 41st out of 50 players with at least 25 rushing attempts this season).

If the Broncos do manage to find offensive success in this game, it won't have been foreseeable due to anything they have done to date. It will likely be due to some sort of errors on L.A.'s side.

When the Chargers have the ball

The matchups on this side of the ball will unfortunately be affected by injuries. The Chargers are still without both left tackle Rashawn Slater and wide receiver Keenan Allen, while the Broncos will not have edge rusher Randy Gregory, linebacker Josey Jewell, or safety Caden Sterns. Safety Justin Simmons is eligible to return from injured reserve, though that has not officially happened just yet.

With Allen out of the lineup, it seems highly likely that we'll see star Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II following Mike Williams all around the formation in coverage for much of the evening. Williams lines up on the perimeter almost all of the time, aligning in the slot on only 12.8% of his snaps so far this season. Surtain certainly has the size and physicality to match up with Williams, but Williams is also not a player who depends on separation to make an impact. (He's averaged just 2.6 yards of separation on his targets, according to's Next Gen Stats, and among wide receivers only DeVante Parker has received less of a pre-snap cushion than his 4.6 yards.) He's at his best in contested-catch situations and when using his body to shield his defender away from the ball. How often he can win those battles against Surtain will have a major effect on this game. 

With Gregory out, the Broncos are using Baron Browning as an edge rusher, and he's looked quite good in the role. He had 10 (TEN!) pressures, 1.5 sacks, and two tackles for loss during last week's slop-fest against the Colts. He'll be working against a backup tackle whenever he comes off the right side of the defense, and if Trey Pipkins isn't 100% healthy on the opposite side, then both Browning and Bradley Chubb could have advantages. The Chargers are more solid up the middle at the moment, but Dre'Mont Jones and D.J. Jones will need to get some push to keep Herbert boxed into the pocket and unable to escape by stepping up and through. 

L.A.'s best passing-game matchup might be with Austin Ekeler out of the backfield against Denver's linebackers -- or even Simmons if he's rusty in his first game back. Ekeler is one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL, capable of running all kinds of routes. The Chargers have been keeping him fresher this year by rotating Joshua Kelley (and Sony Michel) into the lineup more often and funneling more of his usage to passing downs, two-minute offense, and even short-yardage situations. Basically, they want him on the field in high-leverage moments, and for good reason. 


Featured Game | Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos

Score: Chargers 21, Broncos 16