The Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers have a rivalry that dates back to decades ago, and in 2020, the history between both teams will continue to grow. The Broncos lead the all-time series 68-52-1, but when these two play this upcoming season, the stakes will be much higher.
History reveals many things about NFL teams, but what teams do in the present matters the most. The AFC West became stronger in the off-season, and some of the ties that bind both of these teams together will come to a head in 2020.
How the off-season additions improved the division
Through free agency and the NFL Draft, both the Broncos and Chargers improved in areas that will keep their rivalry at the forefront of the upcoming season. Despite the Broncos sweeping the Chargers in division play last season, their matchups in 2019 were physical, tough, and down to the wire.
How the Broncos offense matches up against the Chargers defense?
The Broncos’ first test of the Drew Lock era came in 2019 against the Chargers in Week 13. Los Angeles attempted to get to Lock with Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, but the Broncos designed a gameplan that would help Lock get the ball out of his hands quickly. When both teams face-off, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur will need to design a gameplan that will try to reduce Ingram, Bosa, and Jerry Tillery’s ability to get to Lock.
Things are drastically different for both teams in terms of off-season moves. The Broncos signed former Chargers running back Melvin Gordon in free agency to play alongside Phillip Lindsay. The Chargers signed former Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr to play alongside Derwin James and Casey Hayward.
Will new talent make the difference for Denver?
The Broncos loaded up with offensive talent at their skill positions at wide receiver, and on the offensive line. The additions of Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler will test the Chargers tough secondary and could open the door for more one on one opportunities for Courtland Sutton.
Sutton tallied eight catches, 166 yards, and three touchdowns combined in both matchups against the Chargers last season. If the Chargers focus their efforts on solely slowing down Sutton, players like Jeudy and Hamler will have to step up in that scenario. It’s likely that former Bronco Harris Jr. will cover inside the slot for the Chargers this season.
The Chargers defense improved at inside linebacker with the addition of Kenneth Murray in the 2020 NFL draft. His on-field presence as a run plugging, sideline to sideline pursuit backer will be a tough challenge for the Broncos rushing offense. Los Angeles also added former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman, Linval Joseph, who will have the responsibility of stuffing the run from the defensive interior.
Both the Broncos and Chargers improved in these areas which will make their rivalry even stronger.
How the Broncos defense matches up against the Chargers offense
One of the more significant changes during the off-season that could impact the Broncos and Chargers rivalry is the departure of Philip Rivers to the Indianapolis Colts. To counter the loss of Rivers, the Chargers drafted Justin Herbert, quarterback from the University of Oregon with their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. For Herbert, the expectation in Los Angeles will be for the rookie to sit behind a veteran quarterback as Los Angeles enters 2020 with Tyrod Taylor as the favorite to start the season.
Despite the return of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry at wide receiver and tight end, Los Angeles will navigate the offense with Taylor under center. Chemistry will be important to develop as the Chargers hope to improve from being the 21st ranked offense in the NFL last season in points scored.
Can Ekeler carry the load in 2020?
Austin Ekeler was a critical focal point for the Chargers offense in 2019 both as a rusher and receiver, but Denver had success limiting his big-play ability in both matchups last season. In both matchups combined, Ekeler rushed 12 times for 23 total yards and combined for 19 catches and 137 yards against Denver last season.
During the off-season, the Broncos signed Jurrell Casey and A.J Bouye as the team’s newest additions defensively. Both players project to make Denver a better overall unit in 2020 in comparison to 2019. Also, they will look to receive a boost from Bradley Chubb’s return from a season-ending knee injury that he sustained in 2019, pairing him up once again opposite of Von Miller.
Over the years, Miller has played an integral part in the Broncos and Chargers rivalry against Rivers. Now, Denver’s edge rushers will have an imperative role with QB contain against Los Angeles’ added mobility with Taylor leading the way at the position.
Continue to find out how the Broncos can beat the Chargers this season.