Fantasy preview: How will Broncos’ stars perform against Chargers?

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In advance of Sunday’s Denver Broncos-Los Angeles Chargers game, Broncos Wire examines the matchup with fantasy football projections for Denver players courtesy of our colleagues at The Huddle.

This matchup is the first meeting of the season for these AFC West rivals. The Denver Broncos (5-5) fell to the visiting Eagles in Week 10, a week after beating the Cowboys in Dallas. The Los Angeles Chargers (6-4) are 3-1 in road games and just beat the Steelers in a 41-37 shootout.

This game is a coin flip, with the Chargers owning the better offense but the Broncos at home sporting a better defense. The problem for the Broncos is that they’ve struggled to score points in recent weeks other than the trap game in Dallas.

These divisional rivals traded home wins in 2020. The Broncos won 31-30 in Denver, and the Chargers won 19-16 in Los Angeles.

The positives from beating the Cowboys in Dallas went away the following week when the Broncos couldn’t handle the visiting Eagles. But even at 5-5, the Broncos are in the thick of the AFC West race, with this first matchup with the Chargers and then the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 13. They lost to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 6 but will face them again in Week 16.

The aspect of the Broncos that is going to limit them is the passing offense that’s gone four games without posting any significant production, even though that also matches up to the return of Jerry Jeudy, which should have improved the attack. Teddy Bridgewater isn’t making a strong case to return as a starter in 2022, if that was ever in the plans. Fans are also growing restless with third-year head coach Vic Fangio.

Quarterback

The inconsistency in passing with Bridgewater does play off the success of the rushing offense, but only in the way that when the Broncos can run well, they pass much better. If the rushing effort tanks, the passing game is sure to falter as well. Last week against Philly, Bridgewater only managed 226 yards and no scores in a game with 36 pass attempts. He threw for just one score and moderate yardage against the Cowboys and Washington. More troubling still is the fact that the return of Jeudy back in Week 8 didn’t make any positive difference, even though Bridgewater now has three viable weapons for wide receivers.

Teddy Bridgewater projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy Points: 16
Passing: 240 yds, 1 TD

Running backs

The backfield split continues with no changes. Melvin Gordon has been given slightly more carries and all of the goal-line work in the past three games, and he’s scored in each of his past four games. Javonte Williams has just two touchdowns on the year and only one as a rusher. Williams broke 100 yards in Week 9 in Dallas with 111 yards on 17 carries versus the 21 rushes for 80 yards and a score for Gordon. Against Philadelphia, Gordon (9-45, TD) and Williams (8-48) still split up the meager workload.

There’s likely nothing that will change the committee approach, but Gordon is only signed for this year. They’ll have to decide if he’s worth bringing back in 2022, though his salary is $8 million to only $1 million for Williams.

Melvin Gordon III projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy points: 16
Rushing: 50 yds, 1 TD
Receiving: 3 rec, 20 yds

Javonte Williams projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy points: 13
Rushing: 60 yds
Receiving: 4 rec, 30 yds

Wide receivers

Jeudy only has appeared in four games and still has not scored this year. Since his return in Week 8, he’s been stuck around six catches for 50 to 70 yards each week. Meanwhile, Courtland Sutton‘s production has all but evaporated. After scoring in Weeks 7 and 8 and locking down five or more catches per game, Sutton hasn’t received more than four targets in the past three weeks and topped out at only two catches for 40 yards back in Week 8. Tim Patrick‘s production tends to vary from week to week, but he just signed a new three-year contract worth up to $34.5 million — not bad for a previously undrafted player and a lot considering that Sutton becomes a free agent in the offseason.

Jerry Jeudy projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy points: 11
Receiving: 5 rec, 60 yds

Tim Patrick projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy points: 8
Receiving: 3 rec, 50 yds

Courtland Sutton projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy points: 5
Receiving: 2 rec, 30 yds

Tight end

Noah Fant isn’t a difference-maker, but he’s a part of the passing puzzle and returned from a one-week absence due to COVID-19 to post five catches for 59 yards in the loss to the Eagles. He’s much more likely to score and post significant stats at home.

Noah Fant projection vs. Chargers
Fantasy points: 17
Receiving: 6 rec, 50 yds, 1 TD

Match to defense

The Chargers defense is unique in that it’s great against quarterbacks (No. 3) and wideouts (No. 2), and yet terrible versus tight ends, who have totaled eight scores on them. All wideouts combined have just six touchdowns against this defense and only two in the past five games. The Bolts gave up four tight-end scores in just the past two games alone. Fant should be a lock for one of his better efforts.

The other weakness of the Chargers is stopping the run. Most opponents feature a running back with over 80 rushing yards, and three already have topped 100 rushing yards. They’ve yielded 14 scores to the position, and that includes five touchdowns in just the past two road games. Both Williams and Gordon are must-starts this week. Jeudy has the most upside for wideouts, but there’s just as much risk of a down game.