SERIES HISTORY: 117th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 64-51-1. The Chargers blanked the Broncos 21-0 in their most recent meeting last December. The shutout stopped the Broncos consecutive game scoring streak that stood out as the second longest in NFL history.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers can let Philip Rivers be Philip Rivers at any time but it's the running game, and that includes short swing passes that mimic a run, that has allowed the Chargers to go on their current roll. The Broncos are mediocre at best in stopping the run and that's just too tempting with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Running well would help slow Denver's pass-rush duo of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.
The Broncos are averaging 20 points in their last two games, both losses and need to find a way to score more points. Their running game has continued to be productive but they could use more chunk plays in the passing game and they have an inviting target for those downfield passes in rookie Courtland Sutton. If Case Keenum can connect with Sutton downfield at least a couple of times, that could put the Broncos on the doorstep of touchdowns that they'll need to stay on the heels of the Chargers prolific offense.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen has emerged as one of Rivers' favorite targets over the years. That means the Broncos secondary will have its hands full as the Chargers use the run to complement a top-notch passing game. It will fall to cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. or Bradley Roby to shadow Allen and keep him from fueling the Chargers' big-play offense.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--OUT: G Max Garcia (knee), LB Brandon Marshall (knee), S Dymonte Thomas (ankle)
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
--OUT: CB Trevor Williams (knee)
--QUESTIONABLE: DE Joey Bosa (foot), TE Antonio Gates (knee)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Broncos TE Jeff Heuerman vs. Chargers S Derwin James. Heuerman is coming off his best game as a pro, with 10 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown in Denver's loss to Houston. However, he'll be facing one of the top safeties in the game in James, a ball-hawking defender with the physical abilities to go toe-to-toe in a matchup with tight ends.
--Broncos LB Josey Jewell vs. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon. The Chargers have been able to keep opposing defenses guessing as to what's coming, a slashing run off the edge by Gordon or QB Philip Rivers hitting a pass route over the middle. With Denver LB Brandon Marshall's status uncertain because of injury, Jewell could be in line to make another start and he'll be at the center of the Broncos' run-stopping effort as an inside linebacker. Gordon has run for 338 yards and four touchdowns in his last three games.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Broncos C Connor McGovern. Denver lost Matt Paradis to a broken leg in their last game against Houston two weeks ago, so McGovern is slated to make his first start Sunday. McGovern stepped in for Paradis after he was injured and had the bye week to become accustomed to quarterback Case Keenum as well getting the first-team practice snaps. Keenum said McGovern has been a quick study. "He's on point," Keenum said. "He showed up ready to go and is a guy that's been working his tail off since I got here. I have complete confidence in him."
FAST FACTS: BRONCOS QB CASE KEENUM passed for 290 yards with 1 TD vs. 0 INTs for 90.4 rating in Week 9. Has 2+ TD passes in 3 of his past 5. ... RB PHILLIP LINDSAY (rookie) had 84 scrimmage yards (60 rush, 24 rec.) in Week 9. Has 90+ rush yards & TD in 2 of his past 3. Leads NFL rookies with 591 rush yards & ranks 3rd with 751 scrimmage yards. Has 110 carries for 591 yards (5.37) & is 1 of 4 NFL RBs averaging 5+ yards per carry (min. 100 att.). ... Rookie RB ROYCE FREEMAN had rush TD in Week 9. ... WR EMMANUEL SANDERS has 100+ rec. yards & TD catch in 2 of his past 4. ... Rookie WR COURTLAND SUTTON aims for his 3rd in row with 50+ rec. yards. Ranks 1st among rookies averaging 19.1 yards per reception (min. 10 catches). ... TE JEFF HEUERMAN set career highs in catches (10) & rec. yards (83) with TD catch in Week 9. Aims for his 3rd in row with rec. TD. ... LB VON MILLER has 5 sacks, 2 FFs & FR in his past 4. Had 2 sacks in last meeting. Is 1 of 3 active players (JULIUS PEPPERS & TERRELL SUGGS) with 90+ sacks (92.5) & 25+ FFs (25). ... LB TODD DAVIS is 1 of 4 in NFL with 65+ tackles (67), 5+ PD (5) & INT (1). ... Rookie LB BRADLEY CHUBB has 6.5 sacks in his past 4. Leads NFL rookies with 8 sacks. ... CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS completed 18 of 26 (69.2 pct.) for 223 yards with 2 TDs vs. 1 INT for 105.1 rating last week. Is 1 of 3 QBs in NFL history (TOM BRADY (2007) & AARON RODGERS (2011) with 2+ TD passes & 95+ rating in each of his team's 1st 9 games of season. ... RB MELVIN GORDON had 165 scrimmage yards (93 rush, 72 rec.) & TD catch last week. Has 120+ scrimmage yards & TD in each of his past 5. Aims for 8th in row with TD. Is 1 of 5 in NFL with 1,000+ scrimmage yards (1,033) & 10+ TDs (11). ... WR KEENAN ALLEN had TD catch last week. Has 4 TD catches in his past 5 vs. Den. ... LB MELVIN INGRAM had sack & FF last week. Aims for his 4th in row with sack. ... LB JATAVIS BROWN had team-high 11 tackles in Week 10. Aims for his 3rd in row with 11+ tackles. ... Rookie S DERWIN JAMES had 9 tackles last week. Is 1 of 3 in NFL with 60+ tackles (64), 3+ sacks (3.5) & INT (1).
PREDICTION: The Chargers are in their home stadium for the first time since Oct. 7, but their travels didn't keep them from compiling a 7-2 record. Still, there will likely be numerous orange-clad Denver fans in attendance.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 23-16