In a matchup of a pair of 2-4 teams, the Denver Broncos welcome a second-straight divisional opponent into Empower Field as the Los Angeles Chargers and rookie quarterback Justin Herbert come to town.
Although these two teams enter with losing records on the year, there is a stark contrast in their respective performance on the field.
Denver's offense has been tepid at best and pedestrian overall as Drew Lock still continues to figure out how to play at a consistent, effective level in the NFL. Sloppy footwork at the top of his drops and within the pocket have hindered Lock's consistency through his first eight starts, but when the flashes show, they're incredibly promising.
Herbert, on the other hand, has taken the league by storm and looks the part as a true franchise quarterback. With a handful of 300-yard passing games under his belt, as well as a tremendous four-touchdown game against the New Orleans Saints a couple of weeks ago, Herbert has the Chargers' offense rolling week in and week out.
If the Broncos are going to win this game, their offense needs to take a big step forward in the passing game, as well as slow down Herbert's hot start to his career. To do so, they gotta win these five matchups.
RT Demar Dotson vs. DE Joey Bosa
As is typical every week in this series, we have to highlight the most dangerous pass rusher for the opposing defense and identify who should see the majority of the action against him. This week, it's Bosa, who is one of the most disruptive edge defenders the league has to offer and enters this week with 34 total pressures, tied for second-most in the league.
What makes Bosa so fun to watch is his ability to win with speed and bend off the edge, something that the 34-year-old Dotson has struggled with for the majority of his career.
Dotson is an incredibly smart player and understands that rather than beating speed guys to the outside, he needs to get a more vertical drop in his kick-slide to counter the quickness of the player in front of him. This could lead to some counter moves to the inside from Bosa, so the depth that Dotson gets has to be well-measured and he has to remain balanced so he can come back with the power to fend them off.
Hopefully, Dotson comes ready for work, because Bosa is going to bring it on every snap.
TE Noah Fant vs. LB Kyzir White
Last week's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was Fant's first game back from an ankle sprain that sidelined him for a couple of weeks, causing him to miss Week 6. It was a disappointing performance on the stat sheet, but that could be attributed to the lackluster play of the offense as a whole more so than the actual injury to Fant in and of itself. Don't believe me?
Just ask the man himself. He feels like he was ready to go.
This week, Fant has an opportunity to bounce back as he gets a favorable matchup against White, who has struggled massively in coverage this season.
White has allowed 32 receptions on 38 total targets for 139 yards and two touchdowns, relinquishing a passer rating of 118.0. He has been one of the most targeted linebackers in coverage this season, and has allowed 1.57 yards per coverage snap, the most of any player with at least 196 coverage snaps.
Fant was open multiple times against the Chiefs, and with White's struggles so far this season, we should see more of that this week. Let's hope Lock can sight adjust and find him.
LB Josey Jewell vs. TE Hunter Henry
Speaking of a top tight end going against a struggling coverage linebacker, Henry has been having a solid beginning to the season as well, coming into the week with 25 receptions for 291 yards and one score.
When it comes to Jewell, he hasn't struggled nearly as badly as White has thus far, but he's been pretty bad — save for his solid showing against the New Jets a few weeks ago.
Like White, Jewell ranks in the bottom-10 in snaps per target (6.6), snaps per reception (8.6), as well as yards per coverage snap (1.24).
Denver has been a sieve against tight ends, and seemingly every year, the AFC West takes the Broncos' defense to the woodshed with high-quality tight end play. This one could get ugly.
CB Michael Ojemudia vs. WRs Keenan Allen & Mike Williams
One of the most pleasant surprises for the Broncos this season has been rookie cornerback. This week, Ojemudia may have his toughest test yet as the Chargers roll out one of the top route runners in the league in Allen as well as a top deep threat in Williams.
Both guys bring separate challenges for the rookie, and he should see multiple plays against both of these players on the outside.
The best matchup for Ojemudia will likely be against Williams for the simple fact that the rookie rarely gets beat over the top. One play against Chase Claypool in Week 2 doesn’t change this fact.
Williams is a quality deep target with a large catch radius, but Ojemudia thrives being physical at the catch point and should be able to win those one-on-one matchups on a fairly regular basis. Allen is a far superior route runner, especially on routes that break towards the middle of the field.
With the way that Vic Fangio’s coverage scheme places a priority on protecting the boundary with outside leverage, Ojemudia could be taken advantage of by Allen on slant, crossing, and dig routes that cross his face. Ojemudia can counter that with quality trail coverage and his quick click and close on the football, but Allen does such an amazing job setting up defensive backs to create separation that Ojemudia is really going to have to be on top of his game in order to hang around with the veteran wide receiver.
These matchups are going to be crucial but don't forget to check out the video above for the most important head-to-head for the Broncos in Week 8.