Sweeping the Los Angeles Chargers and winning the 500th game in franchise history are the best the Denver Broncos can do Sunday. Being a spoiler can be fun.
This is the Denver Broncos’ last frontier in 2018. It’s in their best interests that the ignominy of this season not seep into 2019 in any particular.
The Broncos’ lone silver gleam at the twilight of 2018 is they can potentially sweep the Los Angeles Chargers and if they were to do so, get win number 500 in franchise history.
Otherwise, I am not a snake oil salesman. I have no interest in putting lipstick on a pig.
As the 27-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders proved Monday, there is no doubt that lame duck head coach Vance Joseph has worn out his welcome.
Losses to sub-.500 teams on the season (the 49ers, Jets, at the time, the Browns, and now the Raiders) which have seen a listless Broncos team come out will not be tolerated.
It has officially been 46 years since the Broncos have had successive losing seasons and the franchise needs a face lift.
General manager/president of football operations John Elway has made a habit of cleaning house when things are going south at Dove Valley.
I do not subscribe to the prevalent notion on “Broncos Twitter” (if you listen to those fools, your IQ will exponentially drop) that Elway is the impetus of the Broncos’ futility.
In quoting the classic 1958-1966 TV series Mr. Ed (my mom loved that show and if you ever get to see it, it’s hilarious), I go straight to the source and consult the horse on this matter:
Seriously, does anyone know better than Predominantly Orange? I may be a company shill, but that’s what worker bees do and I sincerely mean it. Predominantly Orange is spectacular. You should read more of our content.
I will admit that what may potentially happen December 31 and moving forward is significantly more interesting than what will transpire Sunday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
Nevertheless, this is a game thread and I’ll keep it real.
The Chargers are the only AFC West foe the Broncos have a winning record against. The Broncos are 66-51-1 all-time against the Bolts in their history, including 41-17-1 at home.
Los Angeles is a Top 10 offense in yards per play (3rd at 6.4 yards), scoring offense (5th at 27 points per game) and sacks allowed (tied for 8th at 33 sacks).
The Chargers are also a Top 10 defense in net yardage defense (8th at 331.3 yards), scoring defense (8th at 21.3 points per game), net rushing yards per game (9th at 107.4 yards), net passing yards per game (7th at 223.9 yard) and red zone percentage defense (9th at 52.1 percent).
As was the case in the first game of the season between the teams, a 23-22 Broncos win November 18, Denver’s advantage proved to be winning the turnover battle.
This is the one true decisive edge the Broncos have over Los Angeles. The Broncos are 7th in the NFL in turnover margin at +7. The Chargers are tied for 14th at +1.
It won’t affect Sunday’s game unless the Broncos overcome their manifold key injuries, but there’s something in the long term that I just don’t like about the Chargers.
The statistics say (and I am a statistician by trade) the Chargers really should win the AFC. However, the Baltimore Ravens punched them in the mouth repeatedly last Saturday in a 22-10 loss.
As always, quarterback Philip Rivers (4,132 yards, 31 TD’s/10 INT’s, 68.8 completion percentage) looks stellar but in key situations throughout his career, he has perpetually fallen short.
Both of these teams are relatively healthy and there will be more on that in our injury report segment.
This means the Chargers’ dynamic tailback duo of Melvin Gordon (1,309 scrimmage yards, 14 total touchdowns) and Austin Ekeler (900 scrimmage yards, 5 total touchdowns).
Rivers should have the services of his leading receiver Keenan Allen (93 receptions, 1,132 yards, 6 touchdowns) as well.
The defensive excellence of the Chargers has primarily been because of complementary play. Safety Derwin James and cornerback/safety/return specialist Desmond King have three interceptions apiece to lead the squad.
Defensive end Melvin Ingram leads the Chargers with 7 sacks on the season as well.
Perhaps the greatest enhancement for this Chargers team than past squads is they finally seem to have found their kicker.
Kicker Michael Badgley has made 15 of 16 (93.4 percent) of his field goals on the season.
For years, the Chargers have experienced futility at kicker. In fact, in their last visit to Denver, they lost because of a missed field goal at the gun.
As for the Broncos, Case Keenum (3,598 yards, 17 TD’s/14 INT’s), this statistician knows the stats don’t tell the whole story.
Keenum cannot consistently make big plays in the passing game when the Broncos ask him too. This is a position the Broncos really should look to improve at moving forward.
Personally, I would make a play for current New Orleans Saints backup signal-caller Teddy Bridgewater but we shall see.
Elway, who could forget more about quarterbacking than I could ever know, has to know this situation must be improved. For the right price, I trust it will be.
The Broncos will be without rising star tailback Phillip Lindsay (1,278 scrimmage yards, 10 total touchdowns) because of the hand injury he sustained Monday.
The word from Broncos brass this week, as confirmed by BSN Denver reporter Zac Stevens, is tailbacks Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker will play a bigger role Sunday.
It’s not that Freeman (490 scrimmage yards, 5 total touchdowns) has been a disappointment, but Lindsay has been so magnificent that Freeman’s opportunities have been limited. This is especially true when one considers that Freeman’s mid-season injury put him behind the 8 ball as it were.
Our illustrious colleague, Cameron Parker, tells how Freeman can potentially capitalize upon this opportunity presented unto him.
If Freeman is the player I ultimately believe him to be, there’s nothing for the Broncos to be worried about.
At receiver, where the Broncos have been severely injury-stricken, one of the good signs for the Broncos from the Raiders game was Courtland Sutton looks like himself again.
Sutton (679 yards, 4 TD’s) is 6th in the NFL with 16.6 yards per reception and his 6 receptions for 65 yards and a score against Oakland were enhanced by the fact that he was running as smoothly as he has all season.
Sutton also only needs 42 receiving yards Sunday to tie former Broncos standout Vance Johnson (1985) for the third-most receiving yards for a rookie in franchise history. With 59 receiving yards, he will tie Mark Jackson (1986) for the second-most.
Of course, Tim Patrick, when Sutton was ailing, gave Keenum a reliable target as he has 19 receptions for 267 yards and a score on the season. The Broncos have found another solid player in him.
There is no question that Zach Azzanni, the Broncos’ receivers coach, is the team MVP this season.
He was forced to lose Demaryius Thomas to a trade and Emmanuel Sanders to injury, but in Sutton and Patrick, he may have developed their ultimate replacements.
In the NFL, if you can do a comparably good job, if not a better one, with less money tied into such players, you have to do it.
The magnificence of the Broncos’ defense continues to be found in the pass rush. The Broncos’ 43 sacks are tied for 6th in the NFL.
Outside linebacker Von Miller is tied for third in the NFL with 14.5 sacks. His next sack will allow him to pass Pittsburgh Steelers legend Joey Porter for 33rd in league history.
Rising star, outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, is tied for 8th in the NFL with 12 sacks.
The Broncos have the pieces in place to excel in the future. With a few tweaks here and there, they can still be successful in 2019.
The best thing for the Broncos’ faithful to do is trust Elway and look forward to free agency and the draft.
Date: Sunday Dec.30, 2018
Start Time: 2:25 pm MST
Location: Broncos Stadium at Mile High
TV Info: CBS (506sports.com for listings nationwide)
Announcers: Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Adam Archuleta (analyst)
My new friend, Charger intern and chargers.com contributing writer Rachel Gossen has meticulously provided the injury report.
Denver meteorologist Danielle Grant, has provided a weekend forecast.
That’s as propitious of a forecast one can hope for in late December.
Anyway, this is your game thread. In August, tell your friends about us when these things start recurring. GO BRONCOS!!!