2022 REWIND: 2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 17: Chargers 34, Broncos 13 (by Ross Jacobs)
While the Chargers were definitely the better team here and led comfortably for most of the game, it really wasn't as big a blowout as the score would indicate. LAC got a kickoff return TD and then a bomb to Mike Williams in the 4th quarter to finish the rout.
LA has been a perplexing team this year. At times they look like they are ready to take that next step and become an AFC power, and then the next week they'll lay an egg against a weaker opponent. I don't think this beatdown of a dying Denver team is a sign that they are ready to make some noise in the playoffs.
Obviously Herbert is good enough on his own to beat anyone, but I still don't see the consistency or firepower I want to from this offense. Just one example is the baffling treatment of Mike Williams this year. He should be a much bigger part of this offense. You saw it on full display with his 45 yard TD here. And yet they inexplicably ignore him for chunks of time.
I do think the Chargers should beat the Raiders next week to make the playoffs, but it's not guaranteed by any means. LV is good enough to beat them for sure. If they win they likely draw the Chiefs in the 1st round of the playoffs. It's a matchup they can definitely win as they've already beaten KC once and competed well the second time. They aren't afraid of the Chiefs anymore.
The Broncos dropped out of the playoff race with this loss, but have a chance to screw a division rival next week if they could somehow beat the Chiefs and knock them into the 4th seed. Probably won't happen.
They'll head into 2022 looking for a new QB and possibly a new head coach.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Several reminders conjured up from this intro...
We forget Denver was still hanging around the playoff scene as the season unfolded. But their fall and Fangio's firing just proves the axiom...the quarterback is everything'. Denver went with Teddy B. as a plan and tried to game manage and defend their way against a division of highflying offenses...and it failed miserably. Might have worked in the 70s-80s-90s, but not in this current era.
That's why it's so perplexing that the Chargers, with one of the 2-3 best QBs on the planet...couldn't win 10+ games and waltz right into the playoffs. They are going to lose the NFL Game of the Year next week to Las Vegas, and there has to be a reason why this great offense/QB failed...where Joe Burrow overcame everything and blew past KC/Mahomes, Allen/BUF, etc., and are ahead of schedule...but LAC is behind schedule.
If the Chargers do not win 11-12+ games and take the AFC West or get to the playoffs and win a game, you have to question firing Brandon Staley January 2023. No coach has such roster gifts...so if they fail, it has to be on the coaching staff getting in their way. What other explanation can their be? You think Zac Taylor is conjuring up some magical coaching to get Cincy to the Super Bowl? Just get out of the way and let Burrow do his thing...ditto Tom Brady's last 2-3 years.
Fantasy Player Notes
--The most irritating thing from this game had to be the Javonte Williams dud. It certainly contributed to my championship loss and likely many FFM'ers too.
So what happened? How was Houston able to run all over the Chargers but Williams and the Broncos couldn't?
It's a multifaceted answer. The first thing is that Pat Shurmur is one of the worst offensive coordinators in the league. Denver should have been able to run the ball easily, and at times they did. But for whatever reason Shurmur decided this would be a good week to attack the Chargers through the air into the strength of their defense, all while having a godawful pass blocking offensive line trying to protect Drew Lock and half the receivers out for the week. Great idea.
He finally figured out he should run the ball but not until later in the when they were already down and LA was teeing off on the run.
Another part of it was Denver was trying to run zone blocking and that clearly wasn't working as the Chargers were crashing defenders off the edge. I think the way to attack this run defense is with power runs straight up the gut. Another great job by Shurmur not knowing how to exploit a weakness even with an entire year's worth of film.
The third part was that the defense was clearly much more worried about Javonte than Gordon. They would stack the line when he was in. When Gordon was lined up in the backfield they didn't particularly care.
And the final part is that Javonte got many more short yardage carries than Gordon. They were counting on him to pick up 3rd and 4th downs and he did, but it hampered his averages.
I don't believe the LAC run defense has been fixed. In fact, I'd venture to say that Josh Jacobs is a top 3 back against them this week if you happen to have him.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Jacobs would run for 132 yards and a TD in arguably his best game of 2021 season, and LV pulled off the upset win. While Denver possessed a nuclear bomb RB that could've changed this offense, and instead of giving him all the touches to see what would happen...Fangio continued to split Javonte with awful Mel Gordon, and got himself and staff fired. If you knew you were on the verge of getting fired with a non-playoff season...why wouldn't you shake everything up and go with your best weapons as much as you could? Well, there's a reason Fangio is out of football...and no one ever wanted him as a head coach for decades. 'Good defensive schemes' is not enough to build a good/great football team. Players win titles...coaches think it's 'coaching'.
--I believe Drew Lock (18-25 for 245 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) should get another crack at the starting job next year. He played well here and the surrounding circumstances were not in his favor.
With a piss poor offensive line, no WR's, and throwing into one of the better pass defenses in the league, Lock did about as well as could be expected. He was under siege all day, constantly had pressure in his face, and yet he still completed 72% of his passes and threw a TD.
I'm standing by my statement that he looks like Josh Allen-lite. That's pretty darn good, but I don't believe Denver will give him another try next year. They already made up their minds about him when they brought in Bridgewater. He'll still be on the roster because he's signed through 2023, but most likely they'll try to trade for a star QB this off-season and Lock will never see the field.
IF Lock gets a chance somehow, and if they can improve the offensive line, I think he has a chance to be a shock QB1 next year...
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Looks like Lock will get his big chance with 'offensive guru' Pete Carroll. I'm routing for Lock, but I know Carroll is gonna do him in.
--Noah Fant (6-92-1/7) gave us all a reminder here of how good he can be. He's got as much upside and talent as any TE in the league, right up there with Kelce, Andrews, Kittle, and Pitts.
His catch and run here through the middle of the Chargers defense was a subtle work of art. It's easy to forget how big he is when he moves that smoothly and gracefully. I think it even caught the Chargers defense off guard because 4 or 5 of them all kind of paused for a second thinking someone would tackle him, but Fant just raced right through the middle of a crowd like they weren't even there.
Most of Fant's stats came in the final quarter as Lock realized nobody on the defense could cover him. If he had been throwing it to Fant the whole game, Fant might have had 150+ yards. It's a sign of what could be possible next year under the right circumstances...
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Looks like Fant will get his big chance with 'offensive guru' Pete Carroll. I'm routing for Fant, but I know Carroll is gonna do him in. Lock + Fant could be something in 2022...maybe.
--Tre McKitty (3-22-0/3) got some extended time with Cook and Parham out. He was still playing behind Stephen Anderson but that won't last long. It's the first halfway decent look we've got at McKitty, but small sample size so it's hard to draw conclusions.
I'd say he looks serviceable. He can play. I'd probably lump him in with Tommy Tremble from the 2021 class. Nowhere near Pitts and a bit behind Freiermuth as a talent, but not as much as you might think. He could probably work his way into the TE1 conversation someday courtesy of Justin Herbert.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = And, of course, LAC brings Gerald Everett in to make the TE group a mess...Parham-McKitty are better than Everett, but Everett has some odd allure to head coaches working on the west coast, for some reason.
--Jonas Griffith (12 tackles) did it again. It's beyond obvious now that he can play. He's not super impressive to watch, but he just finds his way to the ball. I always compare him to Azeez Al-Shaair for that reason, and both guys have grown on me the more I've watched them, but of the two I actually like Griffith better.
He's forced Denver to consider him at LB in 2022. There are still lots of good LB's on this roster, but between his level of play and the very real possibility that a new coaching staff will be in place next year, Griffith very well might be a starter next fall. A new staff would be beneficial to him because they shouldn't care about who was drafted where and will play the better players. That would be Griffith at LB.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Looks like Griffith is on pace to be the Denver starter in 2022. An IDP sleeper for sure.
Snap Counts of Interest
52 = Sutton
43 = Seth Williams
36 = Kendall Hinton
53 = Fant
30 = Okwuegbunam
30 = Javonte
30 = Gordon
56 = Big Mike
49 = Allen
32 = Guyton
31 = Palmer
52 = Anderson
35 = McKitty
39 = Ekeler
25 = Jackson
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