Welcome to NFL Week 7.
Neither Los Angeles team gave up a point on Sunday. The Rams (5-2) shut out the Cardinals, 33-0, in London, while the Chargers (3-4) beat the Broncos, 21-0, at StubHub Center.
CHARGERS (2-4) VS. DENVER (3-2)
When Chargers have the ball
Teams spend a lot of time talking about “identity,” and this Chargers team spent nearly two months trying to find it. In wins over the New York Giants and the Oakland Raiders, the Chargers relied heavily on running back Melvin Gordon. The results? Sixty touches, 313 yards gained and four touchdowns. It’s come with a cost, though, as Gordon found himself limited in practice all week because of a sore shoulder. Assuming he plays, the Chargers also could use productive games from Branden Oliver and Austin Ekeler. Another piece of the puzzle in the victories has been Hunter Henry, who has been targeted 15 times in the last two games. Henry is a matchup problem against any defense, and with Keenan Allen questionable (shoulder), the tight end could be an even bigger factor in the game plan. If Allen can’t play, the Chargers will look to rookie Mike Williams, who will play in his second NFL game, to make more of his opportunities. He caught the only ball thrown his way last week, and he’ll see his workload doubled against the Broncos. Denver’s got the best defense in the league, though, with a top-notch secondary and an elite pass rusher in Von Miller.
When Broncos have the ball
In the season opener, Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian was sacked four times by the Chargers, but he didn’t let the physicality force him into too many bad decisions. Since that game, he’s had a couple of two-
interception games, both losses. Edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will try to hit Siemian and force him into bad throws. The Denver offense will be without a handful of receivers, most notably Emmanuel Sanders, and the Broncos are banged up on the offensive line. Running back C.J. Anderson is coming off a putrid game against the Giants, but the Chargers’ porous run defense should allow for a bounce-back performance. With Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget bothered by back issues, reserve tackle (and solid run defender) Darius Philon could have a big effect on the outcome. Denver might try to attack the Chargers’ linebackers through the air, and tight end Virgil Green could be an X-factor. Denver’s struggled on offense the last three weeks, while the Chargers defense is trending in a positive direction.
When they kick
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn showed a lot of confidence in Nick Novak in Oakland, letting the veteran kicker win the game with a short field goal as time expired. Novak missed earlier in the game, though, and the inability to count on a kicker from 40 yards or deeper should eventually catch up with the Chargers. It’s a problem the Broncos are having as well, with Brandon McManus missing all but one of his four tries from 40 yards or more. With parity throughout much of the league, figure most games will be close, making the kicking game even more important.
Dan Woike’s prediction
We’re now in the third week of me vowing I wouldn’t talk myself into picking the Chargers after they started 0-4. Yet this seems like a winnable game. The Chargers are home, they’ve built momentum and they’ve got the better quarterback. Defensively, they’ve been bending like a yogi and the Broncos are really banged up, especially on offense. Bosa and Ingram should feast. It’s all lining up for a third straight win, but a man is nothing if his word means nothing.
BRONCOS 20, CHARGERS 17