Entering week 17, The Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos have vastly different agendas. The Chargers, who have already clinched a playoff berth, will be playing for a chance at a first-round bye and a chance to clinch the AFC West. The Broncos, are essentially playing for their jobs. With zero chance of making it into the AFC playoff picture, Denver’s only motivation is (essentially) to make sure they have a job come next year and maybe to ruin the Chargers chances at the division title.
Mike Williams: A former seventh overall pick out of Clemson, Mike Williams has been huge for the Chargers this season. Standing at 6’3″, 205 pounds, Williams has been crucial for the Chargers red zone offense. A tall, lengthy target for Rivers to lob jump balls to, Williams has been largely underused this season. Currently third on the team in total targets, Williams trails both Tyrell Williams and Keenan Allen with Allen more than doubling him in total targets. At times, the situation reminds me of Terrell Owens in his rookie season with the 49ers. Despite his great efficiency, Jerry Rice was still the clear top dog and Owens received scarce targets.
Regardless, going against a solid Broncos defense that features Bradley Chubb and Von Miller on both ends of the ball, Philip Rivers will likely be heavily pressured and in red zone situations. So throwing up a quick lob to your 6’3″, 205-pound receiver with incredible body control will likely come in handy.
Bradley Chubb/Von Miller: The Denver Broncos may not have many weapons at their disposal, but they do have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the NFL with Von Miller and Nick Chubb. Miller, a former Super Bowl MVP, and Chubb, a first-round pick have combined for 26.5 sacks this season. One of the best duos in the NFL, it’s also worth noting that the Chargers offensive line has been struggling mightily the past few weeks and features one of the worst tackles in the league, Sam Tevi. So if the Broncos are going to take down the playoff-bound Chargers, it’s not going to be the Phillip Lindsay-less offense, but the front four that causes havoc on each and every play and makes it a dogfight type of game.
Although I do have my worries about the depleted Chargers offensive line, this game is too important for them to throw it and allow a sub-par Broncos team ruin their divisional hopes. Without Phillip Lindsay, this Denver is going to have to lean on Case Keenum and Royce Freeman to carry the load offensively. And as killer as that duo sounds, I doubt it will be enough to conquer a good Chargers defense.
Los Angeles will also be getting back some key players for this game in Austin Ekeler, Russell Okung (maybe), and Keenan Allen. However, there is one scenario where I could see the Broncos taking the advantage. In order to win the AFC West and clinch a first-round bye, the Chargers need the Raiders to beat the Chiefs. But the problem is, the Chargers-Broncos game is in the same time slot as the Chiefs-Raiders game. So if the Chargers coaches see that the Chiefs are blowing the Raiders out (which is likely) they would probably pull their starters and have Geno Smith and co. steer the ship for the remainder of the game. And if Denver is down by 20 points or less, they could easily force Smith into some errors and make the comeback. However, last year the Chargers had to focus on other games to see if they would make the playoffs and they chose to not check any scores until after their own game. But assuming Anthony Lynn doesn’t get word that the Chiefs have amounted a large lead, I’m going to take the Chargers in this one.
Chargers- 28, Broncos- 17