Three Key Matchups To Watch For In Week 17 Chargers Vs Broncos Rematch 

The Chargers face-off against the Broncos for the second time this season. Can they win this time?

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers looked renewed on Saturday and though they didn’t win, they put up a heck of a fight. Enough so that I’m slowly starting to back away from my Easton Stick take from last week. The keyword being “slowly” as I’ll need at least one more game before completely retracting it.

As the Bolts face the Broncos for the second time this season, here are the Chargers vs Broncos matchups to watch for.

Chargers Defense vs Explosive Plays 

Wide receiver Gabe Davis had a resurgence on Saturday, with the most receiving yards he’s had all season (130) and one receiving touchdown. Much of that yardage happened during one particular deep shot from Josh Allen, where Davis caught it and continued running into the end zone, with linebacker Kenneth Murray hopelessly pulling at him.

The Chargers defense sees their fair share of explosive plays every year, and they still haven’t learned how to stop them. The Broncos tend to have some of these, especially if they’re down.

Russell Wilson had a deep shot to Courtland Sutton during their last matchup against the Chargers, resulting in a touchdown, even though cornerback Michael Davis had tight coverage. And Javonte Williams had his second-longest rush of the year (20 yards) against the Chargers in Week 14.

Now, the offense will change with quarterback Jarrett Stidham at the helm, but the Chargers still have to be wary of these receivers and running backs.

The Chargers defense looked good this last game, between safety Alohi Gilman and that beautiful jumping interception, and the pass rush coming out. They’ll need every ounce of juice to contend with this Broncos team.

Chargers Offensive Line vs Broncos Pass Rush

According to Pro Football Focus, right guard Jamaree Salyer had his third-worst pass-blocking grade during Week 14 against the Broncos (37.3%) and his worst on Saturday against the Bills (34.3%). Week 14 was also when Justin Herbert was sacked four times before going out with a fractured finger, as edge rusher Zach Allen, linebacker Josey Jewell, and others had his number. Stick was also sacked twice when stepping in for Herbert.

That right side of the line is worrisome, given the ups and downs that Salyer has had this year, and the solid center coverage has been missing since Corey Linsley went out.

On the bright side, left guard Zion Johnson had his second-best pass-blocking grade against the Broncos (86.7%) while right tackle Trey Pipkins had his best of the season against the Bills (85.3%). Perhaps that’s foreshadowing some good offensive line coverage for this next game.

Either way, this line will need to be reevaluated this offseason and if Linsley can’t come back, the Chargers will need to bring someone else in at center.

Kenneth Murray vs His Contract Extension

Murray had his best pass rush grade of the season in Week 14 against the Broncos (85.1%) and his worst against the Bills (48.2%), along with his second-worst coverage grade (32.2%) of the season. His tackling grade has improved this year as has his run defense, but he’s been inconsistent.

In the offseason, there was so much talk about all the work he’s been putting in and his great relationship with middle linebacker Eric Kendricks, and so far he’s improved but hasn’t been playing amazing football.

He’s an unrestricted free agent next year, so as of now, it doesn’t seem like he’s done enough to earn an extension, and with new leadership on the horizon, Murray may be out. It might be too late but some good performances in these next two games will only help his chances, whether it is with the Chargers or not.