Breaking down how the Chargers (8-7) and Denver Broncos (7-8) match up heading into their game at 1:05 PST on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. The game will be shown on CBS.
When Chargers have the ball: When these teams met in late November in Denver, the Chargers began with consecutive three-and-out possessions, helping the Broncos open a 14-0 lead en route to a 28-13 victory. Another slow start for the Chargers would be ill-advised, particularly coming off their epic flop in Houston. This is a team that could use some early success to reset the mood and reignite some belief. The return of running back Austin Ekeler (COVID-19/reserve list) certainly will help. Ekeler is second in the NFL with 17 touchdowns and fourth among running backs with 1,347 yards from scrimmage. He said running the football Sunday will be vital, especially after the Chargers managed only 26 yards in seven carries in the first half against the Broncos in that November game. Denver is ranked 13th against the run but features one of the NFL’s stingiest defenses when it comes to points allowed. The Broncos are tied at No. 1 with the New England Patriots, both surrendering an average of 17.3 per game. Denver has held eight of its last nine opponents to 22 or fewer points. The Chargers have scored at least 28 points in five of six, the lone exception being that trip to Denver.
When Broncos have the ball: Denver will start Drew Lock at quarterback with Teddy Bridgewater out because of a concussion. This isn’t necessarily good news for the Chargers, who are 1-3 in games Lock has started against them. Lock hasn’t beaten any other team more than once in his 19 career starts. Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. did intercept Lock in November when Lock replaced Bridgewater for a stretch after the starter was injured. The Chargers struggled to stop Denver’s ground game in their first meeting, giving up 147 yards. The Broncos picked up 11 of the 23 first downs with rushing plays. They also converted eight…