Los Angeles (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Chargers have split their first four games, good enough for second place in the AFC West. But they could easily be 4-0, given close losses to the Detroit Lions and Houston Texans. They’ll be seeking their third win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The Broncos have yet to win a game. Not that they haven’t come close. Two of their four losses came on last-second field goals. Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky set up Eddie Piniero’s game-winning field goal in Week 2 with literally one second left on the clock. And then the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Gardner Minshew did basically the same thing last week.
What are the odds that late-game heroics from Trubisky and Minshew could lead to two of a team’s four losses? For that matter, what are the odds that the names ‘Trubisky’ and ‘Minshew’ would follow the phrase ‘late-game heroics’?
Larry Hartstein, senior analyst at SportsLine, could probably come up with a reasonable answer if asked. “This is a proud Denver franchise that has never started 0-5,” says Hartstein. “They’re 0-4. Two games at home they blew [in] gut-wrenching fashion. They should be 2-2.” And there was some evidence this past week that rookie head coach Vic Fangio has already lost the locker room.
This Broncos-Los Angeles Chargers AFC West rivalry game is basically a matchup of 2-2 teams. The Chargers came by their .500 mark in more straightforward fashion. Both of their losses — to the Detroit Lions in Week 2 and the Houston Texans in Week 3 — were close. They blew out the Miami Dolphins last week, as teams do.
The Philip Rivers-Keenan Allen pairing has been amazing for the Chargers so far. And the return of Melvin Gordon gives Rivers another offensive weapon, a welcome addition for an injury-depleted team. Austin Ekeler, who’s capably shouldered much of the load in Gordon’s absence, will welcome the help.
“I think it’s (Melvin Gordon’s return) going to be huge,” says Hartstein. “Because Austin Ekeler was totally gassed last week in Miami. And he was talking to Melvin Gordon on the sideline, saying [that] I can’t wait until you come back. He’s going to have a big role.”
The Broncos run defense has been iffy at best so far. “Look what Leonard Fournette just did to the Broncos — 225 yards,” suggests Hartstein. The Oakland Raiders’ Josh Jacobs also had a nice outing against them. While maybe not as powerful as Fournette, Gordon can still be a bruiser and stands to have productive day in his season debut.
While the Chargers have the advantage, “this is a series where the road team has dominated,” Harstein observed, “12-4-2 against the number in the last 18 meetings. This is a proud Denver franchise that has never started 0-5.”
Can the desperate Broncos will themselves to victory, or will the Chargers, with the veteran Rivers and returning Gordon win another?
The Broncos play the Chargers @ 1:05 PT on CBS.