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Can Broncos go Mile High at SoFi?

Denver7 keys to victory over Chargers includes improved pass game, slowing Allen
Broncos Texans Football
Posted at 3:00 PM, Dec 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-10 11:04:57-05

LOS ANGELES – The numbers boggle the mind. Do not bother asking Will Hunting to compute them. They are blunt. Impossible to miss.

No, I am not talking about Shohei Ohtani’s 10-year, $700 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the largest ever for a North American sports athlete. I am referring to the Broncos’ playoff odds if they lose on Sunday to the Los Angeles Chargers.

They drop from 30 percent to 13, meaning the Broncos will be all but cooked. And quarterback Russell Wilson will marinate in the crock pot as his future in Denver gets debated and discussed.

Win on Sunday – Can the Broncos go a Mile High in SoFi Stadium for the first time – and their chances of reaching the postseason increase to 46 percent. This is the latest, biggest game of the season. Fail here, and truthfully, the Broncos do not deserve to go to the playoffs for the first time since 2015. The Chargers are 5-7, inspiring no one, and losers of six games by four points or less. They know how to keep it close before paging Dr. Heimlich, a trait that has many believing coach Brandon Staley will be fired after the season.

Forget the nuance. And the word salad. This is a must-triumph for the Broncos.

My Denver7 keys to the Broncos pulling off the upset as they are a 2.5-point underdog.

Stay grounded
The Broncos need to let down their hair and go the air – but they must set it up with a steady ground game. The Chargers pass defense ranks 31st in the league, yielding 265.8 yards per game. However, they are not much better against the run, allowing 113.8. Denver averages 115.8 on the ground. Patience with Javonte Williams and a few more carries for Jaleel McLaughlin hold the key to softening the Chargers. Samaje Perine is dealing with a knee issue, leading the team to elevate Tyler Badie. Perine has been nails as a safety valve receiver and would be missed if can’t go.

In Russ They Trust
These final five games could go a long way in shaping Russell Wilson’s future as I discussed at length in my latest "Broncos Podcast by Troy Renck." Wilson remains on pace for 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. However, he did not cook against the Texans, more like created a heated argument about whether he will return next season. Wilson must hit on a few deep strikes to Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy or Marvin Mims. I would love to see coach Sean Payton move the pocket or run bootlegs and get more quick hitters and crossers to Jeudy and Mims in space, especially when guarded by old friend Essang Bassey.

Contain Keenan
Keenan Allen is quietly having the best year of his career. Or almost anyone’s career. He boasts 102 catches on 138 targets for 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns. He will get his. The Broncos need to limit his explosive plays. He has posted a catch of 20-plus yards in every game but one. After a slow start this season, cornerback Pat Surtain II is playing well. The Broncos need him at his best vs. Allen.

Stop the Run
Watching the Chargers on tape, and their run game fits are, um, not good. Austin Ekeler, the former Eaton High star, picked a bad year to have a down year. He has logged 50 yards on 32 carries in the past two games, leading to talk that he will become the third down option with Joshua Kelly receiving the rush attempts. The Broncos know Kelly is bigger, but it will not fundamentally change the defense. Denver must tackle well, making the Chargers one-dimensional.

Justin Time for a Pick
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is having a solid season with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has not played particularly well vs. Denver, throwing five interceptions in six games. The Broncos will disguise coverages and bait him. And no one has thrown more fourth-quarter interceptions since he entered the league in 2020. The Broncos need to hold a lead, force Herbert to take chances, and let Justin Simmons and Surtain go to work with a pick.

Third quarter motor
The Broncos have scored 27 third-quarter points this season. In their 10 first possessions after halftime – the alleged advantage of winning the toss – the Broncos boast eight punts, one blocked field goal and one missed field goal. It has left coach Payton open to scripting the first five or six plays in the third quarter. The Broncos cannot keep going three-and-out like they have the last four weeks.

Clean it up
Part of the reason the Broncos lost vs. the Texans: foolish penalties and poor communication. December football is about the details. Do everything like you do anything. That will help the playoff odds remain favorable.

Troy’s Prediction: Broncos 22, Chargers 20