Los Angeles Chargers (6-4, 5-5 ATS) at Denver Broncos (5-5, 5-5), 4:05 p.m.
Brolley’s Chargers Stats and Trends
The Chargers and Broncos split their season series both outright and ATS last season.
Los Angeles is 1-4 ATS in its last five games
The Chargers are 4-1 toward overs in their last five games as a favorite
Austin Ekeler’s dominant performance against the Steelers got lost in the Jonathan Taylor hoopla last week. He ripped the Steelers for 11/50/2 rushing and 6/65/2 receiving for 41.5 FP. He’s now converted 5-of-8 carries inside the five-yard line into touchdowns after getting just two opportunities all of last season. He posted 10/45 rushing and 3/23/1 receiving in one matchup against the Broncos last season.
Justin Herbert did whatever he wanted against a beleaguered Steelers’ defense on his way to a QB1 finish (34.3 FP) in Week 11. He completed 30/41 passes for 382 yards (9.3 YPA) and three TDs, and his yardage total was the second-best of his career behind only his 398 yards against the Browns in Week 5. Herbert also took advantage of Pittsburgh’s man coverage that left him unaccounted for, running for a career-high 90 rushing yards. It was just the second time he’s run for 30+ yards in a game to start his career, and he could rise to the top tier of fantasy QBs down the stretch if he continues to exploit defenses with his legs moving forward. Herbert has been a little too hit-or-miss for fantasy so far with five performances of 17 or fewer points, but he’s shown an elite ceiling with four performances of 30+ FP. Herbert posted 531/4 passing with 47 rushing yards in two matchups with the Broncos last season.
Keenan Allen has been the clear top weapon in this passing game with 11+ targets and 6+ catches in four straight games. He owns the third-highest target share (33%) in Weeks 8-11, and he’s hung 17+ FP in each of those four contests. Allen posted 9/67/1 receiving on 12 targets in his only matchup with the Broncos last season.
Mike Williams had one of the easiest long touchdowns of the season, scoring from 53 yards away on a blown coverage from the Steelers. He was potentially headed toward his fifth straight sub-10 FP performance with just 4/44 receiving on five targets before his touchdown, and he finished with a 15% target share so he’s not completely out of the woods. He performed well in this matchup last season, finishing with a combined 13/153/1 receiving in two games.
Brolley’s Broncos Stats and Trends
Denver is 2-5 ATS in its last seven games.
The Broncos have played under the total in four straight games, and they’re 4-1 toward unders in their last five games at home.
Teddy Bridgewater comes out of his bye week off of his second-worst fantasy performance of the season in Week 10. He completed 22/36 passes for 226 scoreless yards (6.3 YPA) for 9.0 FP in a 17-point loss to the Eagles. He’s fallen below 250 passing yards in four straight games, and he’s topped 20+ FP in just two of his last eight games. Old man Ben Roethlisberger hung 273/3 passing against the Chargers for his first 20+ FP performance after missing all week with COVID.
Jerry Jeudy has paced the Broncos with 17 targets in his last two games (27% share), and he’s turned in six catches in each game. He owns a 24% target share in his four games, but he’s yet to score a touchdown or to break 75+ yards in a game. The Chargers are giving up the sixth-fewest catches per game (11.7) to WRs this season.
The Broncos handed Courtland Sutton a four-year extension over their bye week. Now they just need to figure out how to get him involved when Jeudy is on the field. He’s seen just 12 targets in four games with Jeudy active, and he hasn’t topped 6+ FP in a single one of those contests. Chase Claypool went for 5/93 receiving in this matchup last week, and it could’ve been a much bigger performance with a couple of better throws.
Tim Patrick finished with just 3/14 receiving on six targets (17% share) against the Eagles before last week’s bye after leading the Broncos in receiving yards in Weeks 8-9 with 7/149/1 receiving. Patrick is averaging 14.1 YPR with four touchdowns, and they clearly think highly of him after handing him a three-year extension. The Chargers are giving up the second-fewest receiving TDs per game (.5) to WRs this season.
Noah Fant reached double-digit FP in Week 10 for just the third time in his last seven games with 5/59 receiving. Fant is averaging a career-low 9.0 YPR with a 6.3 aDOT in his first season with Teddy. Albert Okwuegbunam continues to be a thorn in his side when they’re both in the lineup at the same time, and he’s coming off a 3/77 receiving performance before their bye. The Chargers have given up four TDs to tight ends over their last two games.
Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon will likely continue to roll with their split backfield coming out of their Week 10 bye. Javonte is averaging 10.3/51.4 rushing and 2.4/13.6 receiving per game on a 46% snap share while Melvin is averaging 11.8/52.2 rushing and 2.8/16.1 receiving per game on a 54% snap share. Williams has been the more effective player on a per touch basis (5.1 to 4.9), but Gordon is crushing him in the touchdown department (7 to 2). The Chargers have tightened their run defense up a bit since their Week 7 bye, and they just limited Najee Harris to 12/39/1 rushing and 5/20 receiving last week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 25.8 (1st)
Plays per game: 66.0 (16th)
Pass: 65.1% (6th) | Run: 34.9% (27th)
Pace: 30.7 (30th)
Plays per game: 65.0 (23rd)
Pass: 66.3% (3rd) | Run: 33.7% (30th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Chargers offense has been up-and-down in recent weeks, but one thing has remained the same: They are playing fast and throwing a ton. Over the last eight weeks, L.A. is seventh in pass rate when the game is within a score, they are the ninth-most pass-heavy team when trailing, and fifth when leading. Tom Brady is leading the league in attempts per game (42.3), but Justin Herbert (39.4) isn’t too far off.
On the other hand, the Broncos play-calling tendencies are very dependent upon how the game is flowing. Because, when Denver is behind on the scoreboard, they go 73% pass-heavy – which trails only the Bills (74%) and Chiefs (76%). However, when they are playing with a lead, that all switches. OC Pat Shurmur goes with a heavy ground game and runs the ball 53% of the time when leading for the seventh-highest rate. The markets (-2.5 Chargers) view this game as tight overall, but if the Broncos are forced to play from behind and throw a ton, it should lead this game to filling up the box score with points.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
The SuperChargers need all of their Big 3 (Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams) to get on a roll in order to turn ‘21 into a magical season. Granted, Los Angeles took advantage of an undermanned Pittsburgh defense, but it was a sight to behold alongside a red hot Justin Herbert. In order to keep the torch lit, Williams must take advantage of Ronald Darby. During his six games this season, Darby has provided his coverage with 1.46 YPCS (15th-most), 0.29 FP/CS (26th), 0.45 AY/CS (second-most), and a 98.0 TPR (37th). Take note of Darby being attacked with the second-most AY/CS. He’s also permitting the ninth-highest rate of completions traveling 20-or-more yards. With 33% of Williams’ FPG coming on receptions of 20-or-more yards, it should provide Williams with the perfect opportunity to go nuclear.
Even with the Chargers playing TEs soft this season, I’m fading Noah Fant. He has not been on the same page with Bridgewater in quite some time. Albert Okwuegbunam has been eating into his looks.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Broncos have done a lot of work in recent weeks to make their club look like a premier destination for veteran QBs this off-season.
While they had a bad loss against the Eagles before their bye, GM George Paton went to work locking up some key pieces for their future on the offensive side of the ball, inking both WRs Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton to monster long-term extensions.
Tim Patrick on why he wanted to stay in Denver:— Aric DiLalla (@AricDiLalla) November 20, 2021
"Why would I want to leave somewhere that believed in me? They believed in me, so I wanted to figure out any way to be able to stay here and bring the fans what they want." https://t.co/6woyV7uGnR
The #Broncos reached an agreement on a big-time extension for standout WR Courtland Sutton, his agency @milkhoneysport tells me and @TomPelissero. It’s a a 4-year $60.8M extension with $34.9M guaranteed. After a torn ACL in 2020, he’s back as a star and was rewarded like one.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 22, 2021
Along with Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos’ entire WR corps is locked up through 2024. Of course, there’s one big piece missing to the Broncos’ offensive future — a quarterback. I doubt that’s lost on Teddy Bridgewater.
Teddy Bridgewater was non-committal on if he and his agents are talking to the Broncos about an extension: “I’m just taking it one day at a time”— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) November 24, 2021
Bridgewater has had some good moments this year, but it’s worth noting that the Broncos clearly didn’t pay Sutton based on production… which Bridgewater may be limiting. Since Jeudy returned to the lineup, Bridgewater has targeted Sutton just 11% of the time, behind Jeudy (25%), Patrick (17%), and TEs Noah Fant (13%) and Albert Okwuegbunam. Sutton hasn’t finished as a top 60 weekly WR in a game with Jeudy active yet this year. But as Brolley outlined above, this isn’t a great matchup for WRs across the board — especially for Jeudy, who has a brutal draw with Chris Harris in the slot. Patrick has the best draw — rookie CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion) is out.
One thing that did happen before the Broncos’ bye was rookie RB Javonte Williams played a 57% snap share, his highest of the year. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon had an awful fumble returned for a touchdown, changing the game against Philly. I still anticipate a split here, but the Chargers also still have FootballOutsiders’ worst run defense by DVOA, so both players are viable RB2s.
The Chargers are one of the simplest teams to break down for fantasy — you typically want to start their Big 4. So let’s get Graham here to talk about Austin Ekeler, the best of their bunch. From Stat-Pack:
Austin Ekeler has one of the best floor / ceiling combinations in fantasy right now. In 18 career starts with Justin Herbert, Ekeler has finished as the RB25 or better 15 times and as the RB10 or better eight times.
Ekeler is averaging 20.9 FPG and has double-digit FP in all but one game with Herbert under center.
The one thing Ekeler was missing in previous years was TD upside and he certainly has that in spades right now. Ekeler has gotten 20 opportunities (carries + targets) inside of the 10-yard line, which is third-most among RBs and trails only Jonathan Taylor (31) and Dalvin Cook (21).
By the way, the Broncos are the only divisional opponent Keenan Allen hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game against in his career. That will be easier for him to accomplish this year, with star slot CB Bryce Callahan (knee) on IR.
Wes outlined above why he likes Mike Williams, and I’ll add another point — S Kareem Jackson is doubtful for the Broncos with a neck injury.