Week six will end with a match-up between two long time adversaries in the AFC West, the Denver Broncos traveling to Qualcomm Stadium to take on the San Diego Chargers. Winner of the game will have an early grasp on the division and go a long way into deciding the division winner. After the Monday night match-up, there will be a combined eight wins in the division, showing the lack of talent and competition in the division, there will be no wildcard team coming from the AFC West, so it’s win the division or go home.
Denver looks to come off a loss against the New England Patriots in which nothing worked in their favor except the incredible display of play put on by QB Peyton Manning. Manning was 31-fo-44 for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
The question about Manning and his arm strength continues to be brought up as Manning is seen as “not being able to throw the long ball” following his four neck surgeries.
Interesting stats provided by ESPN. Manning in week five through nine passes for fifteen yards or longer in the game against the Patriots, all which went to WR Demaryius Thomas. He connected on five of the passes he threw, all of which to Thomas for 154 yards, a career high in yards for the third year pro. There should be no question about strength, but how familiar he is becoming with his receivers as he works to get the timing down still with the receiver corps. The Chargers pass defense is giving up 260 yards per game, look for Manning to throw it, and throw it often to work that secondary.
This San Diego defense is not the same defense that has been coached by the likes of Wade Phillips and Ron Rivera. This defense lacks the ability to get pressure on the quarterback, something that they haven’t had problems with in the past. But through five games, the Chargers have accumulated ten sacks on the season. Lets put it perspective, DE Elvis Dumervil and OLB Von Miller have eight between the two.
The Broncos defense will look to use the two man wrecking crew in Dumvervil and Miller to try and get off the field on third down. This continues to plague the Broncos. Last week against the Patriots, they gave up 11 of 16 third down conversions, they got to do a better job of stopping opponents and getting off the field so that their offense isn’t constantly playing catch-up like they have in most games. Denver is currently ranked 30th in the NFL, allowing 46.7 of thirds down to be converted.
Slowing down the Chargers has been a problem as well, Manning hasn’t had a good track record against the Bolts and Broncos for that matter. Manning himself is 1-5 against San Diego with a TD/INT ratio of 11/15. Denver themselves haven’t had luck against Chargers QB Phillip Rivers, he is 9-3 against the Broncos completing 64.4 of his passes and 20 touchdowns. Denver’s pass rush will have to “camp” in the Bolts backfield if they want to slow down the Chargers offense.
One key will be the Chargers offensive line, the last couple seasons if has been patch work, dealing with injuries and journeymen to fill in on the line. Last season, Rivers struggled against the Broncos rush, completing 46.9 of his passes against the rush. Denver is 13th in the league in pass completion, allowing 61.4 completion percentage. But the defense will really help out the offense if they can generate some interceptions. On the season, they only have two interceptions, and four takeaways total.
The Bolts offense is not the same as it has been in the past. With WR Vincent Jackson, the squad was essentially reliving the “Air Coryell” offense, slinging the ball all over the place, including deep to Jackson. Jackson wasn’t resigned in the offseason and has moved on to Tampa Bay. They don’t have that “go-to” guy on the offense now, the leading receiver is Malcolm Floyd with 20 receptions for 358 yards and one touchdown. Next up is RB Ronnie Brown with 17 catches. This passing game is being put together by a”committee”. No one guy will scare a secondary right now on this offense.