The Denver Broncos aim to rebound from a subpar season by their standards, while the Los Angeles Chargers begin a new era when the two long-time AFC West rivals meet on Monday night in the Mile High City. Both teams also feature new coaches - Vance Joseph for Denver, Anthony Lynn for Los Angeles - while the Chargers play their initial game since unceremoniously ditching San Diego after 56 seasons.
The Broncos missed the playoffs last season after winning the Super Bowl following the 2015 campaign and once again will revolve around a defense led by star linebacker Von Miller. Denver rehired Mike McCoy to rev up the offense after he spent the last four seasons as the Chargers’ coach, going a woeful 9-23 over the past two years before being fired. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib took notice that Los Angeles wideout Keenan Allen is healthy after tearing an ACL in the 2016 season opener and cautioned that the Chargers are a dangerous foe. “They’re healthy now, and they’ve got all of their guys and all of their guns are on deck,” Talib told reporters. “They have Philip Rivers as their quarterback, so if you have a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, you’re probably going to be pretty good on offense.”
TV: 10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Broncos -3.5. O/U: 43
ABOUT THE CHARGERS (2016: 5-11, fourth in AFC West): Rivers still wings the ball all over the field at age 35 and has topped 4,000 yards eight times to go along with five seasons of 30 or more touchdown passes. Melvin Gordon missed a 1,000-yard rushing season by three yards when he sat out the final three games with hip and knee injuries, while veteran Antonio Gates has 111 career touchdown receptions - tied with Tony Gonzalez for most by a tight end in NFL history. Pass rushers Joey Bosa (10.5 sacks as a rookie) and Melvin Ingram (eight) will test a Denver offensive line that has four new starters while cornerback Casey Hayward (NFL-best seven interceptions) leads the secondary.
ABOUT THE BRONCOS (2016: 9-7, third in AFC West): Trevor Siemian begins his second year as a starter after passing for 3,401 yards last season and has a solid pair of receivers at his disposal in Demaryius Thomas (five straight 1,000-yard seasons) and Emmanuel Sanders (three straight). Running back C.J. Anderson is healthy after playing just seven games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery while former Kansas City star Jamaal Charles will try to revive his career after appearing in only eight contests over the last two seasons due to his own knee woes. Miller is second in the NFL in both sacks (73.5) and forced fumbles (19) since entering in 2011 while Talib is tied for fourth in league history with nine career interceptions returned for touchdowns.
1. The Broncos have won five of the last six meetings and hold a 63-50-1 series advantage.
2. Allen, who recorded 1,046 receiving yards as a rookie in 2013, played in just nine games over the last two seasons.
3. Miller has registered 13 sacks in 12 contests versus the Chargers.
PREDICTION: Broncos 26, Chargers 16