Sunday featured an exciting group of games that ended with some surprising results, and the Week 6 slate finishes off with an AFC West battle on Monday Night Football. The Denver Broncos will head west to square off against the Los Angeles Chargers. Denver is coming off an uninspiring 12-9 defeat at home at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5. Los Angeles narrowly edged the Cleveland Browns last week in a 30-28 road victory.
With the Kansas City Chiefs’ loss against the Buffalo Bills, both teams will be looking to get back into the division race.
Justin Simmons’ Return
The Broncos will be getting a key piece of their defense back on Monday night as Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is expected to be activated off of injured reserve. He was only able to suit up for one game this season, which was Denver’s season opener against the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, he recorded nine combined tackles and recovered a fumble.
Denver has invested a lot in Simmons, as they gave him a four-year, $61 million contract in March 2021, with $35 million guaranteed. Even though Los Angeles figures to come into this matchup with less than a full complement of offensive starters, Simmons’ versatility will help limit the Chargers’ ability to comfortably move the ball in the intermediate part of the field.
Marveling At Austin Ekeler
Many of the same names are a part of the NFL’s elite running back conversation year in and year out. Christian McCaffery, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry have all been tremendous players in the last several seasons, but Austin Ekeler’s production has been just as impressive. Many wondered whether he could handle a full workload after Melvin Gordon signed with the Broncos as a free agent in 2020, and Ekeler has answered that question in the affirmative.
Other than McCaffery, it is hard to come up with another player out of the backfield who is more adept at catching passes than the Chargers’ running back. Ekeler already has 31 receptions through five games, and is essentially a lock for a healthy compliment of targets on Monday night with wide receiver Keenan Allen looking doubtful to play. Look for Los Angeles to get the ball in Ekeler’s hands 20-25 times against Denver.
Manufacturing Offense For Denver
The shocking demise of the Broncos’ offense has been well documented, and questions surrounding the effectiveness of Russell Wilson have been dominating the conversation. For the majority of the season thus far, Denver has not been able to get anything consistent going, and they will have their hands full against a talented Chargers defense.
Although he has been much maligned, this is where offensive minded head coach Nathaniel Hackett will have to get creative. He has many years of experience as a coordinator, and even if his ability to run an entire team as a head coach has been suspect, he should be able to draw up a few plays that give Denver some confidence early in the game.