Los Angeles Chargers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Week 1
Date/Time: Monday Night Football, September 11, 2017 at 10:20PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LAC +3.5/DEN -3.5
Over/Under Total: 43.5
The Los Angeles Chargers come to Mile High to face the Denver Broncos in the late MNF game in week one AFC West action. The Bolts have left San Diego, returning to their original home in LA. With new geography and leadership in head coach Anthony Lynn, they hope for a fresh start. After missing the playoffs in a 9-7 season that ended with a thud, the Broncos are also under new leadership and hope to re-establish themselves this season. Who can get the 2017 season off to a fast start?
Denver has put a lot of effort to avoid falling back further after regressing some in 2016, which followed a Super Bowl Championship. New leadership should resonate. Vance Joseph is a fresh face in the head coaching ranks, but he put some good guys around him. Bringing back Mike McCoy, who is off a 4-year head coaching stint with the Chargers, to run the offense was a good move and McCoy has some helpful position coaching with Bill Musgrave and Geep Chryst added to the staff. Look for them to get this offense at least pointed in the right direction.
Trevor Siemian was able to beat out Paxton Lynch and a deep coaching staff looks to help him grow in his second full year of play. Brock Osweiler, who returned after flaming out in Houston and Cleveland, would be an option if Siemian totally falls flat. Some familiar names on the Denver offense need to find a second wind in running back CJ Anderson and WR Demaryius Thomas. They still have Emmanuel Thomas at receiver and maybe Jamaal Charles can add something after injuries have derailed his career. Look for more power schemes to open up the run-game. The line offers promise with first-round pick Grant Bolles and offseason acquisitions G Ron Leary and T Menelik Watson. That could really help Siemian and the run-game.
Joe Woods is the new coordinator of the defense after Wade Phillips moved on. Look for more of the same from one of the best defenses in the conference. There was some late-movement in the secondary, with TJ Ward unceremoniously released. Justin Simmons should fill in well at safety and S Darian Stewart is still a difference-maker, along with a top corner tandem in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Domato Peko should help stop the run up-front. Adam Gotsis is still outside, with depth coming from DeMarcus Walker and Derek Wolfe. Von Miller is still one of the best in the game and they hope to get a better season from Brandon Marshall in the middle. Losing the rising LB Shane Ray doesnt help, but those expecting a big drop-off from this unit could be left empty-handed.
Though leaving San Diego was a crime, a fresh start could help the Chargers. Their W-L record in recent seasons definitely suggests a bad team, but its a bad team with a twist. In other words, with any breaks whatsoever in the personnel department, things could have gone very differently. Their offensive line seemed to lose guys left and right the past few seasons. Their offensive cast of playmakers, a good one when intact, was pelted with injuries the last few seasons and last year in particular. On one hand, theyre the only team to lose to the Browns last season. But its not hard to forecast a completely different scenario if they could just catch a couple breaks.
Despite some turnover-heavy seasons recently, Philip Rivers is still at the top of his game, boosted immeasurably by the second-year growth of Melvin Gordon last season. A healthier line, with T Russell Okung and Matt Slauson inside should help. Also aiding Rivers is a more-intact receiving crew led by Keenan Allen. The two have a wonderful chemistry and it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers the two can put up if Allen remains healthy. In Allens absence, they developed some more receiving talent, including Tyrell Williams (questionable). Rookie Mike Williams could get into the mix in the next month, giving the Chargers another option. Add in WR Travis Benjamin and tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry and you see an aerial attack with a lot of options. At the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to health.
Former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley takes over the defense. Again, a lot of it comes down to health. That came up in the preseason with LB Denzel Perryman going down for at least half a season with an ankle injury. There are still pieces to like on this side of the ball, including the leagues most-exciting young pass-rusher in Joey Bosa, who hit the ground running last season. Melvin Ingram adds a nice running mate. The run-stop is in good hands up-front with Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget. They have one of the best young corners in the game with Jason Verrett, but health always lingers as an issue. Casey Hayward was a big factor last season at the other corner. Tre Boston made progress this offseason at safety and will be back there with SS Jahleel Addae. If things fall into place, the defense can become a team asset and not a roadblock to victory as they have been for the past several seasons.
This is a key game between a team clinging desperately to not recede to mid-pack in the Broncos and a team that really should start climbing out of the abyss in the Bolts, who would love to get things off to a good start as the Los Angeles Chargers. Were not saying the optimism some feel toward the Chargers is misplaced. But this is a tough place to play a season-opener and we see Denver in a better position to get the season off to a good start. Im taking the Broncos.
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