Jussel: Broncos, L.A. very much alike in opener

And away we go, to quote the Great One.

Get in a quick nap. The Denver Broncos host the Los Angeles Chargers tonight. The game is supposed to start at 8:20 (MDT), meaning it will be close to midnight before fat ladies raise their voices.

It will be an ESPN presentation and Beth Mowins will be doing the play by play, the first woman in 30 years to broadcast an NFL game. Gayle Sierens called one game in 1987, part of an experiment by NBC sports director Mike Weisman, who also gave us the announcer-less silent NFL game, microphones and coaches and Bob Costas.

Good luck Beth, partially because there will be lots of naysayers for obvious reasons, but mostly because Rex Ryan, the former Jets/Bills coach, is doing his first regular-season game as color commentator. Where’s Dandy Don when we really need him?

Oh yes, the game:

Philip Rivers is back with the Chargers. They have a new coach in Anthony Lynn. They have plenty of talent defensively, especially on edges and the corners. They also have explosive skill players on offense, with the biggest question being a rebuilt offensive line.

Trevor Siemian is back with the Broncos. They have a new coach in Vance Joseph. They have plenty of talent defensively, especially on the edges and the corners. They also have explosive skill players on offense, with the biggest question being a rebuilt offensive line.

Yup, mirror images.

May the best team win, and thanks to Kansas City’s stunning showing Thursday night in New England when the Chiefs ripped apart the Patriots team that couldn’t be beat 42-27 (didn’t Tom Brady remind you of Peyton Manning in his final season?), it’s already obvious that winning the AFC West is going to take some doing.

The key to winning tonight’s game — as I am sure Mowins and Ryan will point out innumerable times — will be the play of the offensive tackles.

The Chargers will have Joe Barksdale at right tackle and Russell Okung at left tackle. You may never have heard of Barksdale. You might remember Okung. He was the slug in Denver last season who couldn’t run block or pass block. He became a free agent and Denver opted not to sign him. The Chargers gave him a boatload full of money.

Barksdale, a serviceable seven-year vet, will be charged mostly with blocking Denver’s Von Miller. Good luck with that, Joe.

Okung will be charged with blocking Shaq Barrett, Kasim Edebali and maybe rookie DeMarcus Walker. Miller might also flop sides occasionally to grab another sack or two around Okung. Good luck with any and all, Russell.

One other footnote on the Chargers O-line: A backup now is Michael Schofield, yet another of Denver’s sieves last season.

Rivers is fun to watch if he is frustrated, something the Broncos hope to accomplish early in the game with pressure.

It will be applied.

Question is — and here’s that mirror thing again — can the Broncos fare any better in keeping Siemian on his feet with their rebuilt O-line?

The Broncos have a starting left tackle in rookie Garett Bolles. He’s quick. He’s mean. He has messed up several times in preseason. And he will be going mostly against Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, who had eight sacks last season. Good luck with that, Garett.

The Broncos also have a new starting right tackle in Menelik Watson, a free agent signed away from the Raiders. Watson is in his fifth season and has never been a full-time starter, mostly due to injuries. All Watson will have to deal with is Chargers second-year star Joey Bosa, who had 10.5 sacks in 12 games his debut season. Good luck with that, Menelik.

Of course, there are other things to look for: the Denver debut of Jamaal Charles, the Charger return of wideout Keenan Allen, Denver’s ability to stop the rushes of Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles corners trying to man up on Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and on and on.

But pass rushers going against pass blockers will give us the answer.

And I just can’t see Russell Okung stopping anyone from Denver’s D.

Broncos 27, Chargers 21.


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