Who: Denver Broncos (13-3) vs. San Diego Chargers (9-7)
What: AFC Divisional Playoffs
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
When: Sunday, January 12th at 4:40 PM ET
TV Channel: CBS
After Week 11 of the NFL season, the San Diego Chargers sat with a record of 4-6. Their divisional opponents, the Denver Broncos, were 9-1. The week prior, Demaryius Thomas had torched the Chargers for 3 TDs en route to a 28-20 Denver victory. The Broncos were being touted as the mid-season Super Bowl favorites while the Chargers seemed doomed for another season of disappointment, buried deep in a heap of AFC mediocrity. Back in November, few would have thought the two teams would be meeting in mid-January in the conference semi-finals.
Yet here we are: the rubber-match for all the marbles. In Week 15, amidst the Chargers’ playoff push, San Diego got the better of Denver at Mile High. The Chargers’ shaky secondary contained Peyton Manning’s star-receiving core and San Diego lived to see another day. Still, the climax of the Bolts’ season came in Week 17. With minute playoff chances and very little in their own hands, the football gods smiled upon Southern California. The Dolphins and Ravens succumbed to defeat and the Chiefs’ Ryan Succop missed a field goal to allow the Chargers to slip into the postseason.
By continuing to defy the odds and upsetting Cincinnati in the Wild Card round last weekend, the Chargers have set themselves up for another go with Denver. For all the talk of San Diego’s surprising rise, the Broncos haven’t been too shabby themselves. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense looked like they were playing Madden on rookie difficulty, breaking NFL record after NFL record. The Broncos had an astounding four receivers with double digit touchdowns to go with running back Knowshon Moreno’s thirteen. While the Broncos defense hasn’t been stellar, it’s done enough to hold off opponents and allow the offense to work.
“Want to know how they played the Broncos tight both games this season? In two full games against Denver, the Chargers have turned the ball over zero times. The defense has forced one turnover in each game.
The Chargers won their first playoff game by forcing four turnovers and not turning the ball over once. They’ll need to follow a similar formula to beat the Broncos, and it’s entirely possible. McCoy’s team has played six games without a single turnover, and six more where they turned the ball over only once.
As far as why the Chargers have improved in the past few weeks….
- 2013 Chargers (pre-December): 0.92 takeaways per game
- 2013 Chargers (December & January): 2 takeaways per game
You can talk all day about which offense is better and which defense is better. At the end of the day, the likely winner will be the team that wins the turnover battle, and the Chargers have proven to be adept at that lately.”
“First, let’s talk about Champ Bailey. I love how the Broncos have used Bailey sparingly over the past few weeks, and I hope they continue to. In his previous attempts to return to the field early this season, Bailey had taken back over his starting position. The returns on that decision were poor – Bailey struggled, and ultimately aggravated his injury.
Lately, that hasn’t been the case – the Broncos have allowed Chris Harris Jr. and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to continue as Denver’s top corners, and Champ has filled in as the third cornerback in slot work. This is the perfect setup for Denver, as Harris and DRC have shone all season, and I hope the Broncos continue to employ it.
Second, Welker. Denver executed Wes Welker’s return to the field perfectly, giving him plenty of time to recover from his concussions. The addition of Welker doesn’t make Denver unbeatable, but it does make slowing Peyton Manning’s offense all the more difficult. The Broncos are much more likely to escape a drought of first downs with Welker on the field.
These two additions alone give me a lot of optimism heading into this game.”
This AFC West rematch is one of the best of the weekend. Two high octane teams face off and while the Broncos enter the game as clear favorites at home, there’s a great deal of buzz surrounding a potential upset. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are two of the NFL’s most notable characters and in a game with so much on the line, look for both quarterbacks to play like stars. Will Rivers and the Chargers return to the AFC Championship for the first time since 2008 or will Manning’s dream season continue with another contest at Mile High and a shot at the Super Bowl? We’ll find out on Sunday.
Jesse Moskowitz (@Jesse_Moskowitz) is a regular contributor of NBA, NCAAF, NFL, and MLB coverage to the movoli blog.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in movoli blogs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of movoli.
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- The San Diego Chargers and AFC West Playoff History (boltbeat.com)
- 2013 NFL Playoffs: Denver Broncos to face San Diego Chargers in Divisional Round (milehighreport.com)
- Chargers vs. Broncos betting odds, pick and trends (sbnation.com)