San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
A great matchup for Thursday Night Football. The Broncos and Chargers split games a year ago. The gameplans are simple: Denver wants to keep you honest by running draws on every drive. San Diego is a team that just tries to move the chains and wear you down. That is the strategy when you go up against Peyton Manning. Denver’s improved defense will be challenged, but last week the Chiefs doubled the Bolts in time of possession.
There is no question that the best passing attack resides in Denver. The answer in the backfield appears to be Ronnie Hillman. The speedster just fits spread offense better, and he’s hitting the holes to the second level off draw plays. I would go as far to say that when Montee Ball returns, he will be the change-of-pace back. Hillman also gives the offense another receiving threat.
DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller form quite the pass rushing tandem. T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib have raised the level of play on the back end, life could be difficult for Philip Rivers and company. The Bolts aren’t necessarily playing their best football. At the end of the day the “W” matters most, but they did escape Oakland with a field goal before losing to KC by a field goal at home. After a few boring games on Thursday Night Football, the past two have been competitive and this rivalry should be the best one to date with these elite signal callers.
Keenan Allen is receiving extra attention so his production has been slowed. Antonio Gates has been instrumental with seven touchdowns, four in the last three games. This should be a game where they need that extra tight end to keep Manning off the field, so Ladarius Green might hear his number called to block and win one-on-one battles. Eddie Royal has had his moments and will look to add to those against his former team. Malcolm Floyd has been a consistent threat downfield, racking up an outstanding 20 yards per catch. Perhaps they should target him more, it sounds like he’s earning them. Branden Oliver has done an excellent job as the last back standing, which has weakened the injured Ryan Mathews’s leverage in a contract year.
SD has been stout defensively, persevering through injuries to each unit. Missing players has caught up with them the past couple of weeks, and they will need both starting cornerbacks to suit up on Thursday night. Rookie Jason Verrett is expected to play through a banged up shoulder while veteran, Brandon Flowers, is questionable with his concussion recovery on a short week. Even if he plays, he had a hobbled groin last week. Demaryius Thomas has been on an absolute tear since the bye. Julis Thomas is the most productive tight end in the game with nine scores. Emmanuel Sanders is tied with Demaryius with a team-high, 24 first downs. Sanders and Wes Welker both crossed the endzone for the first time last week.
The 5-1 Broncos host the 5-2 Chargers at Mile High Stadium, where they are 7.5-point favorites. Denver on the other hand, has been playing lights out with a trio of double-digit victories coming out of their bye. In those wins they have scored 41, 31, and 42. Chargers Head Coach, Mike McCoy, will get to play his former team and have his work cut out for him. Unfortunately, the Broncos offense has a major advantage over the undermanned Chargers defense. Anything goes in division games, however, all signs point up to Manning extending their win streak on prime time. They have hit their stride.