X-Factors Week 17: Chargers Vs. Broncos
There really isn’t any other way to put the Chargers‘ loss against the Texans last week other than it was absolutely terrible. They controlled their own destiny, and at least last week they only had to beat the Texans to continue to control their fate. The worst part about it is the Texans are also one of the worst teams in the NFL. Put everything aside with injuries and covid because both teams had issues with it, the performance and effort were unacceptable.
I wouldn’t be a Chargers fan if I didn’t start getting hope the following day for how they can make the playoffs. I won’t get into the different scenarios of how they can get in, but I will get into the different x-factors for what they can do to beat the Broncos which would obviously help them get in.
X-factor 1: Play with heart/pride
The most frustrating part to me about the previous game is they got manhandled consistently throughout the game. The team with a rookie quarterback, playing for nothing but a better draft position, thoroughly outplayed and outworked the team that was playing for a playoff berth. I can’t wrap my head around that, how does this even happen? Is it coaching, players, or a mixture of both? It was pretty telling where the team’s mindset was when Austin Ekeler, paraphrasing here, stated that some teammates said the energy was dead because a lot of the star players were out. Again I’ll say what I said before, how does this happen? How can a group of professionals competing to play at the highest stage of the season not be motivated?
I thought a lot about this after I read what Ekeler said, I assume I am taking it much worse than it actually is, but it sounds bad. I know the Chargers are still going to be missing players due to covid and injuries, but so is every team in the NFL. I really hope that we see a change in mentality and mindset, a simple mentality change could be what changes the entire outcome of this game. On top of everything, they are playing a division rival that is all but eliminated at this point. I would assume that the Broncos want nothing more than to end the Chargers’ chances as well. Brandon Staley said in a press conference that it is looking good for Derwin James to play this week. There is no one on this team I trust more to bring the intensity than James. The defense has mightily struggled the previous two weeks when he isn’t in the game. Look for Derwin to set the tone on defense and establish that this team is not going down without a fight.
X-factor 2: Let your stars win the game
I can’t believe that I even considered writing this let alone actually doing it. Staley’s big thing is to put the ball in his best players hands because those are the players that will dictate the outcome of the game. Completely sound and logical, and I fully agree with him. I had a lot of issues with the offense’s game plan, I know they played well for the most part but I consistently saw Keenan Allen as an afterthought that didn’t seem like they were featuring him often enough. I am tired of seeing this team force the ball to Jared Cook on 3rd down when they have one of the best 3rd down receivers in the game. I want to see this team put the ball and trust into their best players and trust them to go and win the game.
(Editor’s note: Cook was placed on the COVID Reserve list today and will not play in this game.)
Obviously, it is different on the defensive end. This team’s defense is bad, very bad. They have exceptional talent all throughout the defense and yet they have statistically one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The team has great individual talent but lacks the depth to be a good defense at this point in the season. With this, you might as well start getting more aggressive to give your best players opportunities to change the game. A good example is Joey Bosa, Bosa is obviously very disruptive but he sees a large number of double teams and it can be difficult to make an impact when the players around him aren’t capitalizing. A big part of Staley’s defense is putting his best players in a position to get 1 on 1 opportunity. When Bosa gets that, he dominates and it’s a big reason why he leads the NFL in strip-sacks.
X-factor 3: Win the turnover battle
The Chargers played the Broncos back in week 12 and got handled rather easily, they lost 28-13 and it was even worse than it sounds. A big reason for that loss is because they lost the turnover battle. The Chargers threw 2 interceptions and turned it over on downs once compared to the Broncos throwing one interception and nothing else. Towards the beginning of the game Teddy Bridgewater was sacked and appeared to have fumbled only for it to be confirmed by video review that it was an incomplete pass, I’m still not too sure however, I digress. Bridgewater was hurt on the play and a couple plays later on 3rd down Drew Lock was hit and fumbled, the ball happened to fumble forward and be recovered by a Broncos player for a first down. 8 plays later, touchdown for the Broncos to go up 14-0 early in the second quarter instead of the Chargers being down 7, with the ball in Broncos territory.
It really cannot be stressed enough how important it is for a team to be opportunistic and take advantage of the mistakes that the offense makes. This team does not do that, Derwin had a phenomenal interception that led to a touchdown right before the half to make it 14-7. Imagine if they capitalized on the previous possession and recovered the fumble. Momentum is a heck of a thing, we will have no idea what the outcome of the game would’ve been. Again I’ll say it can’t be stressed enough, this team needs to be better at creating turnovers and protecting the ball. The offense played a near-flawless game last week against the Texans outside of a few plays that all happened to be turnovers. That was the story of the game along with the defense. If the offense doesn’t throw a bad interception or fumble the ball when they really need to make something happen, no one knows how different the outcome would be.
As fans, there is only so much that we know but we are able to get a decent idea of what’s happening and where the team is at. After the meltdown last week, we will get a really good idea from the beginning of this game where this team’s mentality is. It will be very telling where their head is. With the NFL’s new covid rule, a large amount of the players are going to be activated off the covid list and we will be able to play. No time for excuses this time and we will get a good idea of where this team is. Thankfully, this game isn’t in Denver or I wouldn’t pick the Chargers. Being in Los Angeles, give me the Chargers to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Final Prediction: Chargers 31, Broncos 27