The Los Angeles Chargers can extend their two-game winning streak and the two-game losing skid of division rivals the Denver Broncos with victory on Monday Night Football.
The Bolts have been re-energized by victories over the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns that kept them within one win of AFC West leaders Kansas City.
But big questions hang over the Broncos after sloppy losses to the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts with head coach Nathanial Hackett and quarterback Russell Wilson in the firing line.
A dismal 2-3 after one of the easiest early slates in the league, Denver now begins a much tougher 12-game stretch without several key players who may not be back for a while.
|What||Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers|
|Where||SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California|
|When||01:15, Tuesday 18th October 2022|
|How to watch||Sky Sports NFL, NFL Game Pass, Channel 5|
|Odds||DEN Broncos 37/20, LA Chargers 4/9|
All teams pick up injuries over the course of the season, but the Broncos have been hit particularly hard over the first five weeks.
Denver had 18 players on their injury report last week and now has the most cap dollars locked up on Injured Reserve.
Two starters sustained season-ending injuries in last Thursday's ugly defeat to the Indianapolis Colts - left tackle Garrett Bolles and cornerback Ronald Darby.
The loss of Bolles with a broken leg is a major blow as he had been one of the Broncos' most consistent linemen lately.
Running back Javonte Williams had already been shut down for the season because of injury while star pass rusher Randy Gregory won't feature against the Chargers.
Denver's defense has been pretty stout - as had been expected - and currently ranks third overall and first against the pass.
Their main challenge this week will be stopping Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, who had a career-high 173 yards rushing against Cleveland last week while his 199 yards from scrimmage were the most in an NFL game this season.
Mike Williams also had a huge game for Los Angeles last week and will be targeted frequently by Justin Herbert with Keenan Allen listed as day-to-day with a hamstring injury.
The Broncos' big issues lie on the offensive side of the ball with big offseason signing Wilson yet to look anything like worth the trade.
The former Seattle Seahawks star, who is dealing with a strained latissimus dorsi muscle near his throwing shoulder which he injured two weeks back, missed a wide-open KJ Hamler against the Colts with a chance to win the game.
His 36.3 quarterback rating is only good for 24th in the NFL, according to ESPN, and his completion rate is a full five percent down on what it was in Seattle.
But it may not be all down to him why nothing is truly clicking as Hackett has come under the fire for his play-calling and game management.
Denver's offense has been predictable and ineffective. Opponents have been getting a good read on their intentions by noticing that they rarely run the ball out of shotgun formation while Wilson readily hands the ball off to a running back when the box is stacked with defenders.
It has put them in too many third-and-long situations, which Wilson has not converted enough of this year. Last week against the Colts, Denver converted just two of 15 third-down attempts.
The Chargers defense's strength is shutting down their opponents' passing game, which currently matches up well against the Broncos, who are struggling in the run game without injured RB Williams.
Melvin Gordon moved up the backfield pecking order and took the larger share of the workload last week, but has been generating only 3.7 yards per carry.
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If Denver's offense sputters again, their chances of victory will come down to the defense keeping Herbert in check.
The Chargers QB has torched the Broncos with multiple passing touchdowns in three of his four starts against them and has been protected pretty well in 2022.
Los Angeles have allowed just five sacks, tied for the fewest in the league with Herbert sacked just once in each of the past three games while attempting 118 passes in that span.
The characteristics of the Chargers' offense and the likelihood that Denver's struggles in moving the chains continue could make this a routine win for the home team, who could well cover the -4.5 Spread.