Chargers-Broncos showdown shaping up as run-heavy matchup
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (6-4) at DENVER (5-5)
Sunday, 4:05 p.m. EST, CBS
LINE: Chargers by 2½, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Los Angeles Chargers 5-5; Denver 5-5.
SERIES RECORD: Broncos lead 69-53-1.
LAST MEETING: Chargers beat Broncos 19-16 on Dec. 27, 2020, at SoFi Stadium.
LAST WEEK: Chargers beat the Steelers 41-37, Broncos had bye, lost 30-13 to Eagles on Nov. 14.
CHARGERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (8), RUSH (21), PASS (6), SCORING (11).
CHARGERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (17), RUSH (32), PASS (5), SCORING (27).
BRONCOS OFFENSE: OVERALL (20), RUSH (19), PASS (18), SCORING (23).
BRONCOS DEFENSE: OVERALL (9), RUSH (14), PASS (9), SCORING (3).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Chargers plus-1; Broncos 0.
CHARGER PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Austin Ekeler is the only player in the AFC with 500 or more rushing yards (573) and 400-plus receiving yards (405). He had four touchdowns last week in the win over Pittsburgh and is one of only two players this season with at least three TDs in two games.
BRONCOS PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB duo of Melvin Gordon II and rookie Javonte Williams, who have combined for 221 carries for 1,036 yards and six touchdowns. Gordon is the finisher, with five touchdowns. Williams is a tackle-breaking machine who has a 5-yard rushing average. The only team that’s stopped this pair is the Broncos themselves as OC Pat Shurmur has repeatedly pivoted from an effective ground game, to the team’s detriment.
KEY MATCHUP: Chargers WR Keenan Allen versus Broncos CB Kyle Fuller, who’s filling in for Bryce Callahan (hyperextended knee). Coach Vic Fangio will be tempted to move rookie CB Patrick Surtain II inside to cover Allen because a bigger body with a longer reach is a better matchup. Otherwise, Fuller will have to jam Allen at the line, always a dangerous proposition.
KEY INJURIES: Chargers CB Asante Samuel Jr. is in concussion protocol. DT Linval Joseph, DE Jerry Tillery and DT Christian Covington are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Broncos LT Garett Bolles, who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, went on the COVID-19 list. … CB Callahan (knee) is on IR. … ILB Baron Browning is dealing with a balky back. … S Kareem Jackson (neck/shoulder) missed practice time during the week.
SERIES NOTES: The Chargers snapped a three-game skid in the series with a 19-16 win last December. Before that, the Chargers were the only team Fangio (17-25) had much success against, winning his first three games by a combined 11 points. That included a 31-30 thriller on Nov. 1, 2020, when Drew Lock hit KJ Hamler for a touchdown as time expired and Brandon McManus’ extra point capped a comeback from a 24-3 third-quarter deficit.
STATS AND STUFF: The Chargers have won five consecutive AFC West games after dropping nine straight. … The offense is sixth in the league on third downs with a 45.2% conversion rate. … QB Justin Herbert is fourth in the league in passing yards per game (292.7) and touchdowns (21). Four of his 13 300-yard passing games have come against AFC West teams. He has thrown for 17 TDs and no interceptions in his last six starts against the division. … Allen needs two receptions to reach 700 and tie Antonio Brown as the fastest player in NFL history to do so (111 games). Allen also has three straight games with at least eight receptions, which ties a franchise record. … WR Mike Williams has five go-ahead or winning touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season, which is a league record. He had one last week vs. Pittsburgh. … LB Joey Bosa has a sack in the last three games he has played. … LB Kyzir White has at least eight tackles in five straight games. He is also tied for seventh in the AFC with 4 1/2 tackles for loss on run plays. … S Derwin James leads NFL defensive backs with 86 tackles. … QB Teddy Bridgewater’s 14 TD throws are one shy of his career high set last year with the Panthers. Bridgewater has thrown just one interception in his last four games. … Former Chargers RB Gordon III has TD runs in three consecutive games but has critical fumbles in two of those games, giving him 20 for his career to go with 50 TD runs. … Javonte Williams’ 514 rushing yards rank third among the NFL’s rookie running backs. … WR Jerry Jeudy has a half-dozen receptions in three of his four games this season, although he has yet to reach the end zone. … WR Courtland Sutton had four receptions for 74 yards and two TDs in his last game against the Chargers, on Dec. 1, 2019. Sutton signed a four-year, $60 million extension on Monday, 48 hours after WR Tim Patrick signed a three-year, $30 million extension. … TE Albert Okwuegbunam had a career-high 77 yards receiving in Denver’s last game. … S Justin Simmons has 20 career interceptions, including three in his last three games.
FANTASY TIP: Ekeler is the hottest hand in this matchup.
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By The Associated Press