USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NL WEST - Howard Balzer

An­nounc­ers: Beth Mowins, Rex Ryan About the Charg­ers: It’s a new start for the Charg­ers with a new head coach, An­thony

Lynn, and a new city. But there is a lot of the old, high­lighted by QB Philip Rivers and TE

An­to­nio Gates, who have been team­mates for a 13 sea­sons. Gates won’t be the only tar­get for Rivers, how­ever. WR Tyrell Wil­liams caught 69 passes for 1,059 yards last sea­son, and WR Keenan Allen is healthy for now af­ter play­ing a to­tal of nine games the last two sea­sons. Hunter Henry is an emerg­ing tal­ent at tight end along with RB Melvin Gor­don. New de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley has changed the scheme from a 3-4 to a 4-3, and he ex­pects DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin In­gram to get af­ter the quar­ter­back con­sis­tently.

About the Bron­cos: The fo­cus all sum­mer was on the quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion be­tween

Trevor Siemian and Pax­ton Lynch. Siemian won it, thanks to his con­sis­tency, and Lynch in­jured his shoul­der in the third pre­sea­son game and will be out for sev­eral weeks. RB

C.J. An­der­son is back from a knee in­jury that cost him nine games in 2016. RB Devon­tae

Booker (wrist) won’t be avail­able to start the sea­son, but former Kansas City Chief Ja­maal

Charles will be. How much and how he is used will be in­trigu­ing to see as the sea­son de­vel­ops. The of­fen­sive line added RG Ron Leary, and the sea­son could start with Max Gar­cia and Allen Bar­bre al­ter­nat­ing se­ries at left guard. The big­gest change on de­fense was the de­par­ture of co­or­di­na­tor Wade Phillips. Former de­fen­sive backs coach Joe Woods takes over a unit led by OLB Von Miller (131⁄ sacks) and a deep sec­ondary. 2

Matchup to watch: Miller vs. Charg­ers

RT Joe Barks­dale or Chris Hairston.

Barks­dale has been side­lined by a foot in­jury in the pre­sea­son, and his sta­tus for the opener is un­known. Ei­ther one will have his hands full with Miller, who thinks he could reach 30 sacks in a sea­son. Player to watch: Bron­cos LT Garett

Bolles. The Bron­cos say they will live and die with the first-round pick’s in­ex­pe­ri­ence and ag­gres­sive ap­proach, which of­ten leads to

penal­ties. He was flagged three times for hold­ing in one pre­sea­son game, and of­fi­cials surely will be watch­ing him closely. Num­ber crunch­ing: .661. Den­ver’s win­ning per­cent­age in sea­son open­ers in the franchise’s 57-year his­tory. The Bron­cos’ 3719-1 record is tied with Dal­las for the best per­cent­age among all NFL teams, and they have won five con­sec­u­tive open­ers. The Charg­ers’ .561 per­cent­age (32-25) in sea­son de­buts is tied for eighth best in the NFL. KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Run, Melvin, run: Rivers loves to put the ball in the air, but Lynn’s coach­ing his­tory has been lead­ing run­ning backs. A pro­duc­tive Gor­don and of­fen­sive bal­ance should help Rivers limit his in­ter­cep­tions.

2. Man­ning the mid­dle: With Charg­ers MLB Den­zel Per­ry­man (an­kle) out, Korey Toomer and/or Nick Dzub­nar will be counted on to be stout in the mid­dle of the de­fense. The Bron­cos will try to ex­ploit it.

3. Siemian says: The con­fi­dent quar­ter­back thinks he’s ready to take his game up a notch from a de­cent 2016, when he com­pleted just 59.5% of his passes. He has tal­ent around him with WRs De­mary­ius Thomas and Em­manuel San­ders.

4. Line sta­bil­ity: The Bron­cos have a rookie left tackle (Bolles), a job share at left guard (Gar­cia/Bar­bre) and a right tackle (free agent Mene­lik Wat­son) who was in­jured a lot while play­ing for the Oak­land Raiders. C

Matt Par­adis got a late start in camp af­ter off­sea­son hip surgery.


Von Miller has av­er­aged 13 sacks per sea­son over the past three years.

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