The Broncos' regular-season opener isn't for another couple of months, but DenverBroncos.com_ is taking _an early look at each game on the Broncos' 2020 schedule. We don't know how injuries could impact each contest, but we'll present the pressing storylines, matchups, questions and more.
We continue with Denver's Week 16 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Storylines to monitor:
The Broncos and Chargers are slated to meet for the second time in 2020 in Week 16, and Denver will play against its division rival at SoFi Stadium for the first time. The Broncos are currently scheduled to travel to SoFi Stadium to play the Rams in the preseason, but this Week 16 trip will be the first contest there that counts in the standings for Denver.
Both Melvin Gordon III and Chris Harris Jr. will have made their debuts against their former teams in Week 16, but that storyline will bear watching again as Denver potentially tries to complete a second consecutive sweep against LA.
And while rookie Justin Herbert may not be in the lineup for the Week 11 game between the two teams, it feels quite possible that he'll be starting by the time they battle late in the year. If things aren't going well for the Chargers in 2020, this could be the first time Denver faces the 2020 sixth-overall pick.
Player to watch:
QB Justin Herbert
We highlighted veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the Week 11 preview, so we'll turn to Herbert this week. The Oregon product completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 3,471 yards, 32 touchdowns and six interceptions in his final season in Eugene, and he appears to be the Chargers' long-term answer to replace Philip Rivers. Interestingly, Herbert earned the same pre-draft grade as Drew Lock from NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah. Both players could be compared for years as they lead their teams in the AFC West, which also features Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs' signal caller made his first career start in a game against the Broncos in 2017. Could Herbert do the same?
The question mark:
What does this game mean for each team?
Let's be frank: When you're previewing games that are still five months away, it's hard to get a real sense for how it will play out. For a Week 16 game, there's a number of ways it could play out. The Chargers and Broncos could both be fighting for a wild-card spot. One of the two teams could already be eliminated from the playoffs. The Broncos could be in desperate need of a win to stay on pace for a playoff spot, to lock up a playoff spot or to lock up the division. Any and all of those options are possible, but it's the Chargers' success that I suspect will impact this game most. If LA is still in the playoff hunt, that would mean Tyrod Taylor has likely found success, the Chargers' defense is thriving and they've rebounded to the type of team they were in 2018. If that's the case, this game could be one of Denver's most difficult of the year. The truth is, right now we just don't know very much about how the Chargers will pan out with a new quarterback.
The last meeting:
We previously highlighted the Broncos' 2019 Week 13 win in Denver, so let's turn the page back to Week 5. After starting 0-4, the Broncos traveled to Los Angeles to face a 2-2 Chargers team. Denver struck quickly, as they compiled a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game. On the Broncos' next possession, Joe Flacco hit Courtland Sutton for a 70-yard touchdown. The Broncos would take a 17-0 lead before the Chargers clawed back, but a series of big defensive plays — including a goal-line stop by Kareem Jackson and an end-zone interception by Alexander Johnson — helped Denver earn the 20-13 win. After the game, John Elway and the Broncos presented Head Coach Vic Fangio with a game ball for earning his first career win.