Chargers (10-6) at Broncos (4-12)
When: 2:25 p.m. MT, Sunday
Where: Empower Field
Radio/TV: 850 AM, 94.1 FM/KCNC-4
Broncos-Chargers series: Broncos are 69-55-1 in 125 regular-season games dating back to 1960; the Broncos lost 19-16 in overtime in the last meeting, on Oct. 17, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Ravens vs Bengals
An X-factor before the Broncos and Chargers kick off on Sunday afternoon is the outcome of the Ravens at Bengals game earlier that day.
The Chargers, who have already clinched a playoff spot, hold the No. 5 seed in the AFC bracket heading into the final week. If Cincinnati beats Baltimore (11 a.m. MT kick), that would clinch that No. 5 seed for L.A. and give the Chargers nothing to play for.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley indicated the result of that Ravens game would affect his lineup. If the Ravens lose, it’s likely that a majority of Los Angeles starters would play very little, or not at all.
If that’s the case, the odds would swing heavily in favor of the Broncos, who won’t be sitting any healthy starters and are looking to make a point that Russell Wilson and the offense have finally found some footing late in a lost season.
Denver interim head coach Jerry Rosburg said the team’s mentality and game plan will stay the same whether the Broncos are facing Los Angeles’ No. 1s, or the reserves.
“We’re expecting Sonny Liston out there,” Rosburg quipped. “If Joe Palooka shows up, so be it.”
Who has the edge?
Russell Wilson ran for two TDs last week, but also threw another critical interception, which is becoming a trend. Justin Herbert has thrown 23 touchdowns to 10 interceptions this year. If he doesn’t play, Chase Daniel (2-3 in five career starts) is the backup. Edge: Chargers
The Broncos run game has been M.I.A. over the past couple weeks, but features Latavius Murray and Chase Edmonds. The Chargers have dual-threat force Austin Ekeler, an Eaton/Western State product who has 1,567 total yards and 18 total touchdowns. Edge: Chargers
Jerry Jeudy has turned on the jets down the stretch of the season, with 35 catches over the last four games. Courtland Sutton has just one TD this year, way back in Week 4. The Chargers feature the trio of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer. Edge: Chargers
Denver’s banged-up offensive line gets another shakeup with left guard Dalton Risner on season-ending IR with an elbow injury. The Broncos have given up 23 sacks over the last four games. The Chargers have a premier center in Corey Linsley. Edge: Even
D.J. Jones (knee) and Mike Purcell (elbow/ankle) are nursing injuries on the Denver D-line already without Dre’Mont Jones (season-ending hip injury). DeShawn Williams has to step up. L.A. features Joey Bosa, who was hurt the last time the teams met. Edge: Even
Alex Singleton looks to polish off a career year at ILB alongside Josey Jewell. Singleton leads Denver with a career-high 152 tackles, while Jewell has 123. On the edge, Denver has zero sacks the last two games. Drue Tranquill leads L.A. with 136 tackles. Edge: Even
Pat Surtain II, named the team’s MVP by the Denver media, is the Broncos’ lone Pro Bowler. Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson may be playing their last game together on the back end. Former Bronco Bryce Callahan leads the Rams with three picks. Edge: Broncos
The Broncos special teams have ranged from mediocre to dreadful this year. Denver ranks last in kickoff return average (17.5). Brandon McManus is under 80% field goal percentage for the first time since 2017. Chargers punter JK Scott is a Mullen alum. Edge: Chargers
Tale of the tape
|Total offense||316.0 (24th)||359.8 (9th)|
|Rush offense||108.1 (22nd)||91.6 (30th)|
|Pass offense||207.9 (19th)||268.2 (4th)|
|Points per game||16.0 (32nd)||22.7 (13th)|
|Total defense||318.0 (7th)||338.3 (19th)|
|Run defense||112.9 (12th)||142.1 (27th)|
|Pass defense||205.1 (12th)||196.3 (6th)|
|Points allowed||20.7 (10th)||22.1 (T-18th)|
* Through Week 17
By the numbers
10: The number of times the Broncos have won four or fewer games in a season, dating back to 1960. The franchise record for fewest victories is two (1963, 1964, 1982).
499: Total regular-season wins for the Broncos.
299: Total home wins for the Broncos during the regular season.
7: Consecutive AFC West titles for the Chiefs; the Broncos last won the division in 2015, and the Chargers haven’t won it since 2009.
7: Consecutive years the Broncos have missed the playoffs since winning Super Bowl 50. It’s the league’s second-longest active playoff drought behind the Jets (12 seasons).
Line: Chargers -2.5
This line is no doubt subject to last-second change should the Ravens lose Sunday morning. If you’ve watched this pitiful Broncos team all season, you know to play the odds and bet on the Chargers.
Prop bet: Over/under 40 points
Regular season finales can be tough to predict, especially if neither team has anything left to play for. But they’re liable to get wild, and when they get wild, the defenses usually suffer. Take the over.
Mark Kiszla, columnist: Broncos 20, Chargers 17
Jerry Rosburg, the pigskin poet laureate of Denver’s lost season, delivers a soliloquy worthy of William Shakespeare after the Broncos’ play for pride and the joy of beleaguered home fans. All’s well that end’s well. Or something like that.
Kyle Newman, beat writer: Chargers 24, Broncos 21
In a fitting ending to a dumpster-fire season, Justin Herbert or Chase Daniel engineers a last-second, game-winning drive to beat the Broncos and leave the home crowd booing as they leave. Another loss that proves there are serious question marks about Russell Wilson, who throws at least one game-changing interception for a third straight week.
Parker Gabriel, beat writer: Broncos 21, Chargers 17
Sure, there’s nothing important to play for — Denver hasn’t had that in several weeks — but the Broncos turned in a try-hard performance against Kansas City last week. One more Sunday in the season finale and Jerry Rosburg may head back into retirement with a win on his NFL head-coaching ledger. Last time this team played at home, it grounded and pounded to 168 rushing yards, two touchdowns and a win against Arizona. Sounds like a good recipe.
Sean Keeler, columnist: Broncos 21, Chargers 20
Jerry Rosburg’s first week on the job proved what many had suspected all along: This roster needed a “dad” in charge as opposed to Nathaniel Hackett’s “cool older brother” vibe. And how can you not love a mug who name-drops Sonny Liston and Joe Palooka in the same sound bite?
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