The first MNF of the year kicks-off tonight with a special doubleheader. As is the case in Week 1, there’s an early game and a late game from out west. The early game features the New Orleans Saints visiting the Minnesota Vikings, while the LA Chargers and Denver Broncos take the 10:20 EST start in Denver. Yes, the LA Chargers. A city that didn’t have one team, now has two of them.
Attendance didn’t look too sharp at the Rams’ game yesterday, so I can only imagine how two are going to survive in the same city. What I would have liked to happen is the Chargers go to Las Vegas instead of moving to LA. The Raiders leaving Oakland leaves a bit of a funny taste in my mouth, and while no offense to San Diego, I wouldn’t have minded if they went to Vegas.
The Chargers will be playing in a MLS soccer stadium this year, so it’s going to look more like a CFL stadium than NFL. They’ll have to wait to open their season in LA, as they make a Week 1 trip to Denver for a clash with the Broncos. The Broncos exited last season with a record of 9-7. They started hot with a 4-0 record out of the gates, but regressed as the season progressed. Denver finished the year with a 2-4 record, failing to qualify for the playoffs and defend the Super Bowl. It was their first season without Peyton Manning since 2012.
It definitely wasn’t 2013 for the Broncos, where Manning threw 55 touchdown passes. The offense struggled to facilitate much offense under Trevor Siemian, but he wasn’t particularly awful. Siemian reminds me of a previous Broncos’ quarterback, Kyle Orton. He’s what I consider a younger version of Orton. Siemian isn’t going to put up gaudy stats, but he has the ability to pace the offense at a steady enough rate. The idea for the Broncos is to let their defense win football games. They also hope newly acquired Jamaal Charles can stay healthy and have an impact in the running game.
It isn’t 2013, yeah, but the Broncos needed Manning to put up monster numbers that year. Their defense wasn’t on par with what it was in their win over the Panthers in the Super Bowl. The Broncos still have a mean defense that will be tough to move the ball on. It also helps that Aqib Talib enters the season healthy and ready to go. Philip Rivers will look to put a dent in Talib and the Denver defense tonight. Head below for our free MNF pick.
L.A. Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Betting Odds:
vs. Broncos -3(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Chargers vs. Broncos Pick:
The Chargers enter 2017 with a new head coach after firing Mike McCoy. McCoy will be in the house tonight, but it will be on the opposite sideline. He accepted a job with the Broncos to serve as their OC. McCoy wasn’t able to do much with talent around him, so the firing does make sense. Rivers will spearhead the Chargers’ offense, with ample weapons around him.
Melvin Gordon is one of the premier runners in the NFL today. He improved from 641 yards in his rookie season, to 997 yards and 10 touchdowns the following year. I expect his numbers to continue to go up this year. Also, Keenan Allen comes into this game healthy. River’s favorite target is dangerous when he’s healthy, but has had problems staying on the field. He was on pace for over 1,400 yards in 2015 before his year was cut short. The ageless one Antonio Gates is also back for his fifteenth year in the NFL.
Defensively the Chargers are propelled by defensive ROY, Joey Bosa. Despite a contract dispute through the preseason a year ago, Bosa went on to dominate opposing offensive lines. He recorded 10.5 sacks in just 12 games. I expect him to cause plenty of trouble for Siemian in this game.
The Chargers also addressed their offensive line issues, notably by signing tackle Russell Okung. They’re going to get a test right away in 2017, though, against a Denver defense that ranked 4th in yardage allowed per game. Note that they were 1st, giving up just 185.5 yards per game through the air. Rivers led the NFL with 21 interceptions last year. I think we’re going to see a better Chargers team in 2017, especially on defense, led by Joey Bosa causing havoc in the backfield. I can see the spread in this game coming up close, either a 23-16 or 20-17 game, something in the area. Defense should rule Monday night in Denver and lead to a winning pick on the UNDER at 43.
PICK: UNDER 43 (-110)