Monday Night Football Preview: Broncos back in prime time for AFC West battle with Chargers

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Charles Baus/CSM/Shutterstock (12684427q) Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) throws a pass during the NFL game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Denver Broncos at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California NFL Broncos vs Chargers, Inglewood, USA – 02 Jan 2022

Monday Night Football Preview: Broncos back in prime time for AFC West battle with Chargers

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers

Time/TV: 7:15pm CT/ESPN

Denver’s game in Los Angeles Monday Night marks their third weeknight game of the season through just six weeks and their fourth prime-time game overall. The Broncos find themselves just 2-3 through their first five games and have averaged just 12 points per game when under the lights in prime time in 2022. To say that Russell Wilson’s career in Denver is off to a rocky start would be both a poorly executed pun and an understatement, and things won’t get any easier as the Broncos head to SoFi Stadium to play the Chargers.

Los Angeles has won two in a row entering Monday, scoring 30 or more in both wins on the road in Houston and Cleveland. The Chargers’ offense has started to look more like what many envisioned coming into the season, combining a solid run game with elite quarterback play to give themselves a chance to come up with huge drives whenever needed. Quarterback Justin Herbert looks fully healthy and Austin Ekeler’s involvement out of the backfield has also seen a massive uptick over the past two weeks. They’ll run into a Denver defense that ranks #1 in the NFL against the pass on Monday night, meaning L.A.’s ability to keep the run game going will be crucial if they want their offensive numbers to stay anywhere near where they’ve been recently.

Denver enters the game after a full ten days of rest, having not played since two Thursdays ago, but they remain battered by significant injuries on both sides of the football. They’ll be without starting left tackle Garrett Bolles and running back Javonte Williams, the latter of which won’t be back until next season – but they’re also monitoring the health of quarterback Russell Wilson, who is dealing with a strained lat muscle he suffered two weeks ago at Las Vegas. Cornerback Ronald Darby is missing on the defensive end, adding to the load being shouldered by impressive second-year player Patrick Surtain II. Los Angeles is of course dealing with their share of significant injuries as well, entering the game without defensive end Joey Bosa, tackle Rashawn Slater, and wide receivers Jalen Guyton and Keenan Allen.

It might not be a stretch to call the game a must-win for Denver, given how deep a 2-4 start might bury them in a seemingly very deep AFC. With teams like the Jets at 4-2 and so many talented rosters sitting around 3-3 through six games, the Broncos can ill afford to fall behind in what is already an extremely difficult division to compete in. Russell Wilson has heard boos even at home, and there’s a palpable temptation amongst Broncos’ fans to give up on their new acquisition already. Los Angeles would tie the Kansas City Chiefs atop the AFC West with a win at 4-2 and face winnable games the next two weeks against Seattle and Atlanta that could move them back into the discussion at the top of the conference.

The game will likely come down to the strength-on-strength matchup when Los Angeles has the ball, a top 5 overall offense against a top 5 overall defense. Denver has yet to show an ability to compete in a higher-scoring game, meaning an elite defensive performance may be their only hope of remaining competitive in Los Angeles.

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