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NFL-Week 3-Sunday football- Game previews

Steelers (-7 ½, 44) at Bears – 1:00 PM EST

Pittsburgh
Record: 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS, 2-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 8/1

The Steelers crushed the Sam Bradford-less Vikings last Sunday, 26-9 to easily cash as 8 ½-point home favorites. Ben Roethlisberger threw multiple touchdown passes for the second straight game, while Antonio Brown has racked up the most receiving yards in the league through two games (244). After starting last season at 1-3 SU/ATS as a road favorite, the Steelers have pulled off five straight victories in this role, while compiling a 4-1 ATS mark with the lone non-cover coming in the Week 1 win at Cleveland.

Chicago
Record: 0-2 SU, 1-1 ATS, 2-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 250/1

The Bears hung with the Falcons until the final seconds in a Week 1 setback, but Chicago was blown out in Mike Glennon’s return to Tampa Bay in a 29-7 drubbing last Sunday. Glennon threw for 301 yards against his former squad, but it didn’t mean much after the Bears fell behind, 26-0 at halftime to suffer their ninth straight road loss since the start of 2016. However, Chicago has fared well at Soldier Field in the underdog role since the beginning of last season by covering in four of its last five opportunities.

Best Bet: Steelers -7 ½

Broncos (-3, 40 ½) at Bills – 1:00 PM EST

Denver
Record: 2-0 SU, 1-0-1 ATS, 2-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

The AFC West has gotten off to a solid start with the Broncos, Raiders, and Chiefs all jumping out to undefeated records through two weeks. Denver followed up a three-point victory over Los Angeles by blowing out Denver, 42-17 as 2 ½-point home underdogs to improve to 2-0 for the fifth straight season. Quarterback Trevor Siemian threw four touchdown passes, while the Denver defense limited Dallas to 40 yards rushing on 14 carries. Denver makes its first trip to Buffalo since 2011 when the Broncos were routed by the Bills, 40-14.

Buffalo
Record: 1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS, 2-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 125/1

The Bills’ offense produced only a field goal in last week’s 9-3 defeat at Carolina, but Buffalo held the Panthers out of the end zone while covering as 6 ½-point underdogs. Buffalo has yielded only 21 points in two games, but the Bills need to get their vaunted running game going after LeSean McCoy posted nine yards on 12 carries at Carolina. The Bills have been a profitable home underdog over the years by putting together a 7-4 ATS mark in this situation since 2013.

Best Bet: Bills +3

Falcons (-3, 50 ½) at Lions – 1:00 PM EST

Atlanta
Record: 2-0 SU, 1-1 ATS, 1-1 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 12/1

The Falcons beat up the Packers to win the NFC championship in January as Atlanta orchestrated an encore effort last Sunday night at Mercedes Benz Stadium, 34-23 to cash as three-point favorites. Green Bay made it interesting late as it couldn’t overcome a 31-7 third quarter deficit as running back Devonta Freeman found the end zone twice for the Falcons. Atlanta has covered in seven of its past 10 opportunities on the road, while winning each of its past four as an away favorite since 2016.

Detroit
Record: 2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS, 1-1 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 33/1

The Lions are all alone atop the NFC North, albeit only two weeks in at 2-0. Detroit has picked up a pair of wins in the underdog role against the Cardinals and Giants after closing out 2016 with an 0-4 SU/ATS mark when receiving points. All eight home contests for the Lions in 2016 were decided by seven points or less, but their opening victory at Ford Field came by 12 points over Arizona. The road team has won each of the last three meetings between these teams since 2011, as the Lions squeezed past the Falcons in the previous matchup at the Georgia Dome, 22-21 in 2014.

Best Bet: Falcons -3

Seahawks at Titans (-2 ½, 42 ½) – 4:05 PM EST

Seattle
Record: 1-1 SU, 0-2 ATS, 2-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

The Seahawks have lost two of their first three games only once since 2012 as Seattle hopes to avoid a 1-2 start. Last week’s victory over the 49ers wasn’t very convincing, but Seattle managed a 12-9 triumph with a late touchdown as San Francisco easily cashed as 13 ½-point underdogs. Seattle’s ferocious defense has yielded only 26 points through two weeks, marking the fourth time in the last six seasons that Pete Carroll’s squad has allowed fewer than 28 points in the first two games. The Seahawks have had their struggles on the highway since 2016 by going 3-7 ATS, while losing four of the past five straight-up.

Tennessee
Record: 1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS, 2-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 28/1

The Titans broke through the win column in Week 2 with a second half surge in a 37-16 rout of the Jaguars. Tennessee outscored Jacksonville after halftime, 31-13, while the Titans’ ground attack compiled 179 yards, highlighted by Derrick Henry’s 92 yards and touchdown run. In spite of dropping the season opener to Oakland, the Titans own a 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS record in their past seven contests at Nissan Stadium. However, Tennessee has struggled at home against NFC opponents since 2013 by winning only once in the last eight opportunities with that lone victory coming against Green Bay last season.

Best Bet: Titans -2 ½

Chiefs (-3, 47 ½) at Chargers – 4:25 PM EST

Kansas City
Record: 2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS, 2-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

The Chiefs have owned the Chargers over the years by winning each of the last six meetings since 2014. Kansas City rallied in overtime to shock the Lightning Bolts in last season’s opener, while outlasting the Chargers in San Diego, 37-27 in the season finale. The Chiefs own a 7-2 ATS record in its past nine road games, including a shocking Week 1 performance against the Patriots. Andy Reid’s team held off the Eagles last Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, 27-20, led by rookie Kareem Hunt’s two rushing touchdowns, as the former Toledo standout has racked up 355 yards from scrimmage in two games.

Los Angeles
Record: 0-2 SU, 0-1-1 ATS, 1-1 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 100/1

Another game, another close loss for the Chargers. It doesn’t matter where it is, the move from San Diego to Los Angeles hasn’t changed the late-game results for the Lightning Bolts. After the Chargers lost the opener by three points to the Broncos, L.A. missed the go-ahead field goal in the final seconds in last Sunday’s 19-17 setback to the Dolphins to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 2008. The Chargers haven’t been a good underdog to back at home in the last few seasons by posting a 3-8 ATS mark in this role since 2013, while dropping three straight home meetings with the Chiefs.

Best Bet: Chiefs -3

Bengals at Packers (-9, 44 ½) – 4:25 PM EST

Cincinnati
Record: 0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS, 2-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 100/1

From an offensive standpoint, the Bengals have been the most offensive when they have the ball. Translation, Cincinnati can’t find the end zone, as the Bengals have scored a grand total of nine points in two home losses to Baltimore and Houston. The Bengals haven’t been terrible defensively, getting burned by a long touchdown in each of their defeats, while yielding three touchdowns in two weeks. Two seasons ago, the Bengals put together an incredible 8-0 ATS record away from Paul Brown Stadium, but Cincinnati went backwards in 2016 by going 2-6-1 ATS in nine highway contests.

Green Bay
Record: 1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS, 1-1 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

The Packers have endured the most difficult schedule in the league by facing the Seahawks and Falcons in the first two weeks. Green Bay came away with a split as the Packers look to extend their home winning streak to six with a victory on Sunday. The Packers have won five of their last six games at Lambeau Field against AFC foes, but the only loss came last season to the Colts. Green Bay hasn’t had much luck with Cincinnati over the years by losing three straight meetings, including a 34-30 setback at Paul Brown Stadium in 2013.

Best Bet: Bengals +9

NFL-Week 2-Monday night football-Lions at Giants game preview

The Lions (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) were sluggish in the season opener against the Cardinals as quarterback Matthew Stafford was intercepted and Arizona returned the pick for a touchdown early in the first quarter. Detroit erased a 17-9 third quarter deficit by scoring 26 unanswered points to pick up a 35-23 victory, while cashing as 2 ½-point home underdogs. Stafford bounced back from the early interception to throw four touchdown passes, including a pair of scoring strikes to rookie Kenny Golladay.

Detroit’s defense caused four Arizona turnovers, including three interceptions of Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The Lions limited the Cardinals to only 45 yards rushing, which was aided by Arizona running back David Johnson leaving with a wrist injury. Detroit improved to 6-1 the last seven season openers, as all seven games finished OVER the total.

The Giants (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS) finished last season by scoring 19 points or fewer in each of their final six games, including in their Wild Card loss at Green Bay. New York’s offense didn’t produce much in its season opening 19-3 defeat at Dallas as the Giants posted 233 yards. The rushing attack was anything but by racking up 35 yards on 12 carries, as New York could be on its way to another poor season running the ball after ranking 29th in this category in 2016.

New York was without the services of Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., who sat out due to an ankle injury suffered in the preseason. Eli Manning’s top target in Week 1 turned out to be running back Shane Vereen, who picked up nine receptions out of the backfield for 51 yards. Veteran Brandon Marshall didn’t make a dent in the Dallas defense as the wide receiver recorded only one catch, which came in the final minute of play.

DETROIT DOGS

The Lions covered already as a home underdog against the Cardinals, but Jim Caldwell’s team struggled when receiving points away from Ford Field last season. In eight opportunities as a road ‘dog in 2016, Detroit posted a 3-5 ATS record, while the UNDER cashed five times. The Lions closed last season with three consecutive losses as an away underdog, while scoring six points in two of those defeats. Dating back to 2013, the Lions have compiled an 8-13 ATS record in this situation, while going 13-21 ATS the last four seasons on the highway.

Ben McAdoo is entering his second season as the head coach of the Giants as he helped propel New York back to the postseason in 2016 at 10-6. Although the offense suffered late in the season, New York still managed a six-game winning streak halfway through 2016, while posting an impressive 7-1 record at Met Life Stadium. The Giants will be playing only one home contest through the first four weeks (at Philadelphia and Tampa Bay the next two games), but Big Blue has failed to cover its home opener in each of the past five seasons.

The Giants and Lions are hooking up for the third time in the past four seasons. New York has captured two of the past three meetings, including a 17-6 home triumph last December as four-point favorites. Manning threw for 202 yards, but also connected on touchdown passes to Beckham and Sterling Shepard, as the Giants posted 300 yards of offense. Stafford couldn’t produce a touchdown for Detroit, as he put up 273 yards through the air, while getting intercepted once. The last time the Giants and Lions met for a Monday night affair came in the 2014 opener at Ford Field as Detroit cruised to a 35-14 blowout as 6 ½-point favorites.

Stafford has struggled in the spotlight of primetime games in his career. Detroit owns a dreadful 3-10 record in games started by Stafford at night, including three straight losses to close out 2016. However, two of those victories came on the road, while the third win came at home against the Giants in Week 1 of the 2014 campaign. The Giants split a pair of games on Monday night last season, as the lone victory was a one-point decision against the Bengals at home.

NFL-Week 2-Sunday football-Games preview

Patriots (-6 ½, 55 ½) at Saints – 1:00 PM EST

New England
Record: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS, 1-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 9/2

The defending champion Patriots hung their Super Bowl banner last Thursday but were chased out of their home stadium by the upstart Chiefs. New England fell to Kansas City, 42-27 as eight-point favorites to suffer only their second opening week loss since 2004. The good news for the Patriots is they dominated as a road favorite last season by going 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS, while not losing a game away from Foxboro in nine tries. Since 2013, the Pats have covered in six of eight opportunities against NFC opponents on the road, while visiting New Orleans for the first time since 2009, when New England was blasted, 38-17.

New Orleans
Record: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS, 1-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 80/1

The Saints return home after dropping a 29-19 decision at Minnesota on Monday night. New Orleans has fared well as a home underdog the last two seasons by posting a 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS record, including victories over Carolina and Seattle last season. This will be the only home contest for the Saints until Week 6 against Detroit as New Orleans heads to Carolina next week before facing the Dolphins in London. The Saints have lost their first two games in four of the last five seasons, while owning a 1-5 record in its past six games at the Superdome in interconference play.

Best Bet: Saints +6 ½

Eagles at Chiefs (-5 ½, 47 ½) – 1:00 PM EST

Philadelphia
Record: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 33/1

In Carson Wentz’s rookie season, the Eagles won their road opener at Chicago, but failed to record a victory away from Lincoln Financial Field in their final seven attempts. Philadelphia hopes that trend doesn’t continue in 2017 as the Eagles knocked off the Redskins in D.C. in Week 1 by a 30-17 count as one-point favorites. Wentz threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns to avenge a pair of losses to Washington last season, while the Eagles’ defense limited the Redskins to 264 yards of offense. The Eagles dropped four road games in 2016 by five points or less, while making their first trip to Arrowhead Stadium since 2005 when Philadelphia outlasted Kansas City, 37-31.

Kansas City
Record: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 16/1

The Chiefs pulled off the biggest stunner in Week 1 by upsetting the Patriots, 42-27. Alex Smith connected on a pair of 70+ yard touchdown passes, while Kansas City racked up 21 points in the final quarter to pick up their seventh consecutive road cover since last October. The Chiefs suffered a huge blow in the secondary as cornerback Eric Berry tore his Achilles tendon and is out for the season. Kansas City has not fared well for bettors as a home favorite the last two seasons by posting a 5-11 ATS mark, including three non-covers last season in wins of six points or fewer.

Best Bet: Eagles +5 ½

Vikings at Steelers (-5 ½, 45 ½) – 1:00 PM EST

Minnesota
Record: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 20/1

The Vikings won their season opener for the third time in Mike Zimmer’s four seasons as head coach by cruising past the Saints on Monday night, 29-19 as three-point favorites. Sam Bradford put together one of the finest games of his career by completing 27-of-32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns, while rookie Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards for the Vikings. Minnesota thrived as a road underdog in 2015 by cashing in all six tries, but reverted back to a 1-3 ATS mark in 2016, with the only victory coming in Week 3 at Carolina.

Pittsburgh
Record: 1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS, 1-0 UNDER
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

The Steelers were one of two teams to pick up a victory and fail to cover as a favorite in Week 1 as Pittsburgh edged Cleveland, 21-18 as 10-point chalk. Although Le’Veon Bell was unimpressive in the opener by racking up only 32 yards on the ground, Antonio Brown lit up the Cleveland secondary for 182 yards on 11 receptions to help Pittsburgh beat Cleveland for the ninth time in the past 11 meetings. The Steelers have won nine of 10 home openers under Mike Tomlin, while going 6-3 in its past nine games against NFC opponents.

Best Bet: Steelers -5 ½

Dolphins at Chargers (-4, 45) – 4:05 PM EST

Miami
Record: 0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS
Super Bowl Odds: 66/1

The Dolphins will finally hit the field after Hurricane Irma wiped out their season opener against the Buccaneers. Coming off a successful 10-6 campaign in Adam Gase’s first season as head coach, Miami will try to duplicate that feat and look for consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2000-01. Jay Cutler gets the start at quarterback following Ryan Tannehill’s ACL injury in training camp as the Dolphins covered all three games on the west coast last season, including as four-point underdogs in a 31-24 victory over the Chargers.

Los Angeles
Record: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS, 1-0 OVER
Super Bowl Odds: 80/1

The Chargers make their home debut in L.A. after dropping a three-point decision at Denver, 24-21 last Monday. New city, same old story for the Lightning Bolts, who suffered their eighth loss of seven points or less since the start of 2016, while falling to 1-12 in their past 13 divisional matchups. Luckily, the Chargers go outside the AFC West on Sunday, as they have won nine of their past 15 home games against non-divisional opponents since 2014. However, the Dolphins’ defense intercepted Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers four times in last November’s seven-point victory, capped off by Kiko Alonso’s pick-six in the final minute.

Best Bet: Dolphins +4

Cowboys (-2 ½, 42 ½) at Broncos – 4:25 PM EST

Dallas
Record: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

The Cowboys received great news that running back Ezekiel Elliott would play in Week 1 against the Giants. Elliott rushed for 104 yards in a 19-3 triumph as six-point favorites as Dallas avenged a pair of losses to New York from 2016. Dallas won its first six road contests last season before losing the final two to the Giants and Eagles, while scoring 35 points in each of its two road victories against AFC opponents. Dallas and Denver meet for the first time since an epic contest in 2013 as the Broncos outlasted the Cowboys, 51-48, but Dallas cashed as 7 ½-point home underdogs.

Denver
Record: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS
Super Bowl Odds: 25/1

The Broncos missed the playoffs last season following a Super Bowl victory in 2015. However, the Vance Joseph era is off to a good start after Denver squeezed past Los Angeles, 24-21 to win its sixth consecutive season opener. Denver hasn’t been listed as a home underdog many times over the years, but the Broncos have cashed tickets in four of their past five opportunities in this role, including a 21-20 win in last season’s opener over Carolina.

Best Bet: Cowboys -2 ½

49ers at Seahawks (-14, 42 ½) – 4:25 PM EST

San Francisco
Record: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS
Super Bowl Odds: 250/1

The 49ers are in complete rebuilding mode and it showed in a 23-3 home defeat to the Panthers in Week 1. San Francisco could only muster 217 yards of offense, while losing its 18th straight game to a team not named the Rams since 2015. The Niners have dropped seven consecutive meetings with the Seahawks since the 2013 NFC championship, while losing each of its five visits to Seattle by double-digits. San Francisco hasn’t been worth a look as a road underdog since Jim Harbaugh departed the 49ers after the 2014 season as the team owns a 4-10-1 ATS record in this role the last two seasons.

Seattle
Record: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS
Super Bowl Odds: 10/1

The Seahawks’ offense was nowhere to be found at Lambeau Field in Week 1 as Seattle lost at Green Bay, 17-9. Seattle didn’t reach the end zone, while the Seahawks put up 225 yards to fall to 3-9 ATS in its past 12 road games since 2015. The Seahawks should get a boost returning home, where they have won 20 of their past 24 games at CenturyLink Field, while going 7-3 ATS in their last 10 opportunities as a double-digit home favorite. In the last five home victories over the 49ers, Seattle has topped the 29-point four times, including last season’s 37-18 blowout in Week 3.

Best Bet: Seattle -14

NFL-Week 2-Thursday night football-Texans at Bengals game preview

Houston at Cincinnati (-6.5, 37.5), 8:30 pm ET, NFLN

One of these teams will leave the field 0-2, having dropped a second straight contest against a conference foe. Considering each entered the season with realistic playoff aspirations, the loser will be digging themselves a major hole since both teams are on the road next week as heavy underdogs against Super Bowl contenders.

The Bengals are still looking for their first points of the season after a wasteful effort against the Ravens. Andy Dalton drove the offense into the red zone on multiple occasions only to turn the ball over, throwing an awful interception in the end zone while also fumbling after being sacked once he missed an open receiver who probably would’ve scored. It was a forgettable effort for Dalton (16-for-31, 170 yards, 4 INTs), but he at least got to finish the game.

Texans starter Tom Savage lasted one half after the Jaguars built a 19-0 lead through the first two quarters in Houston on Sunday. He lasted just 31 plays, completing 7 of 13 passes for 62 yards before being benched in favor of rookie Desean Watson.

Savage’s agent, Neil Schwartz, told NBC Sports he didn’t understand the move and pointed out that 12 of his client’s 13 passes hit receivers in the hands. Because Jaelen Strong was suspended and Will Fuller is out with a broken collarbone, the Texans have continuity issues at receiver behind No. 1 targer DeAndre Hopkins, though they’ll get Strong back from suspension and are expected to have Braxton Miller closer to 100 percent after an ankle sprain.

Watson will get his first NFL start on his 22nd birthday, getting his feet wet in the second half of the loss to Jacksonville by throwing a TD pass to Hopkins and also tossing his first pro interception. He’s the ninth starting quarterback of head coach Bill O’Brien’s tenure, the most any team has employed in that span (since 2014). His mobility figures to give the Texans a fighting chance given their aforementioned issues at receiver and an offensive line that got abused by the Jaguars’ front seven and remains without top tackle Duane Brown, who is holding out for a pay raise he certainly deserves given the state of affairs up front.

Although Dalton’s five turnovers were the major culprit in Cincinnati’s Week 1 woes, his offensive line did him no favors either. The Bengals are also utilizing a running back by committee approach that didn’t allow anyone to get comfortable. Jeremy Hill started, rookie Joe Mixon got the most carries and the versatile Giovani Bernard also got time, so we’ll see how Lewis juggles his backs in this one. Dalton is just 1-5 against the Texans in his career and probably isn’t excited at the prospect of having to bounce back from one of his worst games ever by facing a J.J. Watt-led defense.

The Texans lost the first three meetings between these franchises but have won seven of eight over the past decade, including three in Cincinnati. Two of those victories came in the wild card round of the playoffs, though both of those wins came under O’Brien’s predecessor, Gary Kubiak. O’Brien himself is 2-1 with Houston against Marvin Lewis’ Bengals and has one more playoff win than his counterpart, who is in his 15th season at the helm but has come up empty in seven postseason games.

The Texans have covered only one of their last six games and are 1-4 ATS in their last five road games. They’re 7-2 ATS against Cincinnati, which has covered four of its last six after a brutal run to start last season. The UNDER has prevailed in five consecutive Bengals games and is 6-3 in Houston’s last nine.

Houston Texans
Season win total: 8.5 (Over +100, Under -120)
Odds to win AFC South: 9/4 to 7/2
Odds to win AFC: 30/1 to 50/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 60/1 to 100/1

Cincinnati Bengals
Season win total: 8.5 (Over +120, Under -140)
Odds to win AFC North: 7/2 to 7/1
Odds to win AFC: 25/1 to 50/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1 to 100/1

NFL-Week 1-Monday night football-Chargers at Broncos game preview

The firsts go way beyond Monday night’s season-opening meeting between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers are kicking off a new era as they play their first meaningful game since moving in the offseason from their longtime San Diego home.

In addition, Vance Joseph of the Broncos and Anthony Lynn of the Chargers are making their head coaching debuts in a game that marks the first time two African American head coaches have faced each other in their inaugural game.

“It’s obviously a special thing on the big picture,” Joseph said. “Hopefully in four or five years, it won’t even be an issue. It would just be two coaches going at it, and may the best team win.”

Joseph succeeded Gary Kubiak, who resigned one season after leading the Broncos to a Super Bowl title because of health issues.

Lynn replaced Mike McCoy, who’s back with the Broncos as the team’s offensive coordinator. McCoy also is facing the Chargers for the first time since he was let go as their head coach following the team’s last season in San Diego.

And Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen is set to make his return from a knee injury that sidelined him for much of last season.

Yet, for all the firsts and the impending rookie debuts for both sides there remains plenty of familiar elements between two longtime AFC West rivals, including a Chargers offense once again led by venerable quarterback Philip Rivers.

Broncos pass-rushing linebacker Von Miller said the Chargers have bolstered the talent surrounding Rivers, making their offense much tougher to reckon with.

“This is probably the most talented Chargers team that I’ve played against,” Miller said. “The defense is a whole lot better and the offense is a whole lot better. They’ve revamped the offensive line, two great running backs, the tight end (Hunter) Henry has come along and Antonio Gates has always been good. You also have a healthy Keenan Allen. It just seems like on film a new Chargers team. I guess the move from San Diego to L.A. really helped out. But they definitely look a whole lot better than what they’ve looked like in the past.”

Gates, in his 15th season, enters the opener tied with Tony Gonzalez for most touchdown catches in NFL history by a tight end (111). With his next scoring catch, Gates would also rank sixth all-time behind Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison.

“It really isn’t on my mind,” Gates told the Chargers website of the impending milestone. “I don’t think that way. I guess maybe it’s because I haven’t wrapped my head around it all yet. I know it’s happening, and I know it’s a big deal, but it’s not like I’m sitting here every day saying, ‘I need one. I need one.’ But one isn’t the destination for me. The destination is to surpass just one. I have 16 weeks.”

For the Broncos, Trevor Siemian returns for his second season as the team’s starting quarterback after beating out second-year pro Paxton Lynch in training camp. Lynch suffered a right shoulder injury during an exhibition game against Green Bay on Aug. 26 and remains sidelined indefinitely.

Brock Osweiler, who was Peyton Manning’s longtime backup in Denver before signing a free-agent deal with Houston and then being traded in the offseason to Cleveland, was re-signed to back up Siemian after the Browns cut him.

The Broncos, meanwhile, shook up their vaunted “No Fly Zone” defensive secondary when they released veteran safety T.J. Ward. He has been replaced in the starting lineup by Justin Simmons, a second-year man who excelled in the preseason.

The team’s top draft pick, Garett Bolles, gets the start at left tackle and free agent addition Jamal Charles will backup starting running back C.J. Anderson.

Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas resumed practicing this week after being held out of workouts since suffering a thigh injury Aug. 26 against Green Bay. Running back Devontae Booker (broken wrist) and defensive end Zach Kerr (bruised knee) both have missed practice time leading up to the Chargers game.

The Chargers top pick, wide receiver Mike Williams, missed all but the first day of training camp because of a lower back injury. His status remains unclear.