DENVER BRONCOS (5-9) at CHARGERS (5-9)
When: 1:05 p.m. Sunday
Where: SoFi Stadium
TV/Radio: CBS (Ch. 2); 98.7 FM, 105.5 FM/94.3 FM (Spanish); Sirius 82
Line: Chargers by 3 points
Notable injury designations: Chargers: DE Joey Bosa (out; concussion/shin), WR Keenan Allen (questionable; hamstring), DE Uchenna Nwosu (out; knee), LB Denzel Perryman (questionable; back).
Broncos: RB Phillip Lindsay (out; hip/knee), OLB Bradley Chubb (questionable; ankle), DL DeShawn Williams (questionable; knee), RB Royce Freeman (questionable; hip), CB Nate Hairston (questionable; toe).
What’s at stake? Not finishing last in the AFC West. Both teams sit at the bottom of the standings with identical 5-9 records, but the Broncos hold the tiebreaker because of their last-second victory over the Chargers in Week 8. The Chargers snapped their 0-9 AFC West losing streak during last week’s overtime win against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Broncos are on a two-game divisional skid and have lost five of their past seven games since defeating the Chargers. Both teams are struggling heading into the second meeting, but the Chargers have the momentum from their two-game winning streak.
Who’s better? It’s been a while, but the Chargers are considered the better team in this matchup. They’re finally winning one-score games, the defense is creating turnovers and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is back on track with back-to-back game-winning final drives. Without much question, the Chargers have found their new franchise quarterback. The Broncos thought they found their franchise quarterback in Drew Lock last year after he ended his rookie season with four wins in the final five games. But Lock has created many concerns with his play in Year 2. He had only 132 passing yards in last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Matchup to watch: Broncos running back Melvin Gordon versus Chargers defensive tackles Justin Jones and Linval Joseph. The Chargers’ interior defensive linemen don’t get as much attention as pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, but their play in the middle is containing most opposing teams’ rushing attacks. Jones and Joseph have excelled at clogging lanes to prevent big running gains. That doesn’t bode well for Gordon, who’s known for running between the tackles. The former Chargers running back has 814 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and is averaging 4.7 yards per carry in his first season in Denver.
Chargers win if: They force Lock into turnovers and take away tight end Noah Fant. The Chargers’ defense is finally getting takeaways, including four in the past two games. They have 16 takeaways this season, surpassing last year’s total of 14. If the Chargers can contain Fant, Lock’s security blanket, that could create more takeaway opportunities. Fant is emerging as one of the best tight ends in the NFL, and had 68 receiving yards and a touchdown last week.
Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. looks to be a difference maker vs. Broncos
Chargers WR Keenan Allen hoping to extend his games played streak
Chargers trust Justin Herbert to take control of the offense
Chargers’ Keenan Allen, Joey Bosa named AFC Pro Bowlers
Chargers receiver Jalen Guyton steps up against Raiders
Fantasy sleeper: With Chargers star wide receiver Keenan Allen not at full strength because of a hamstring injury, roll the dice on speedy wideout Tyron Johnson. He often delivers a 50-yard reception or a touchdown. But it’s fantasy football championship week, and this writer has failed miserably when it comes to fantasy advice this season.
Prediction: The Chargers have finally turned a corner and will keep the momentum going for the season home finale at SoFi Stadium. Herbert records three touchdown passes to reach 30 for the season and guides the Chargers to a comfortable 31-20 victory against the Broncos.