The Denver Broncos (3-6) travel to sunny San Diego to play the Chargers (4-5) on Monday night. With all eyes on the two teams, the close to week 11 should produce two high powered offenses and a close game. Both teams haven’t quite lived up to expectations this season. The two teams that were atop the division last year are now the bottom two teams trying to catch up the Raiders and Chiefs. This game certainly is not meaningless, however. Should one of these teams make a run, which the Chargers are all too familiar with, they could take first place in the division. The Broncos carry momentum over from last week, and get this big win. My Prediction: Broncos 28 Chargers 24
Broncos - Just like last week, the Broncos’ offense will need help from their running game. It all started with the now intact offensive line creating space and protecting Kyle Orton. Last week, the Broncos scripted about 18 plays to open the game. This was the first game all season in which they got off to a fast start, so expect Josh McDaniels to come in with a similar scripted plan. The team used quite a bit of two tight end formations which also helped the Broncos ground game get off the ground. The Chargers will get their points now matter how well the defense plays, so the offense needs to get points on the board. They went 6-10 on third downs and were very efficient in the red zone last week. A similar offensive approach will be needed to beat the Chargers.
Chargers- This is hands down one of the best offenses in the league. The roots begin at Philip Rivers and they branch out to Antonio Gates, Darren Sproles, Mike Tolbert, and Malcom Floyd. Should Gates play, he will be the biggest headache for the Broncos. The former college basketball player has great size and soft hands. The Broncos have said that they don’t know whether to treat him as a receiver or a tight end because he goes deep and challenges the safeties. He’s also a touch match up for the corners, and linebackers. If he’s even remotely open, Philip Rivers will absolutely find him. They use their three running backs very differently in the receiving game, and they’re 2nd in the league in yards after the catch. If the Broncos’ defense thought that they had it tough last week with two phenomenal backs, this week, they will be tested from great players at all angles.
Broncos - Robert Ayers is back, but could see limited action. His presence, however, will help put pressure on Philip Rivers. Denver’s defense is ranked 30th in rush defense and 19th in pass defense. They will have their hands full trying to stop multiple weapons. Matt Cassel tore the defense up last week with 469 yards and 4 touchdowns. Philip Rivers is a better QB than Rivers, so the Broncos will have to tighten the reins. There’s no stopping this offense which is averaging 26.6 points per contest. All the Broncos can do is contain them. They will be facing a very heavy passing attack, especially if the Chargers are down late in the game. It doesn’t matter if their ground game is charging, their bread and butter is the pass. The Chargers can break for big gains after short passes, so the Broncos will need to make tackles immediately.
Chargers - This year, they’ve got the defense to match the offense. Their pass defense is ranked 3rd while their rush defense is ranked 4th. They’re great at stripping balls, and it seems they are always getting their hands on the ball in some way. As a team, they have 8 INTs, 7 forced fumbles, and 45 pass deflections. Their pass rush is intense, and they’ve got 27 sacks which is 4th best in the league. With a great offense and a talented defense, one would think that their 4-5 record is a bad mirage. In reality, many of their games have come down to special teams and that’s where they’ve struggled.
Broncos - As the Broncos know, Darren Sproles can break for one or two kick returns per game. Coverage will need to be spot on, or better yet, a punt will need to be blocked. That happens too often for the Chargers. Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal can certainly take advantage of the Bolts’ spotty coverage unit. They’ve allowed two TDs on kick returns and one TD on a punt return.
Chargers- With the bye week to correct their special teams problems, we’ll have to wait and see if things were actually corrected. They have two very good kickers in Nate Kaeding and Mike Scifres, but it’s been the blocking and coverage specialists that have let the team down.
Broncos - There won’t be any pregame banter between Josh McDaniels and the Chargers this time. As an offensive minded coach, McDaniels has a good idea of what Norv Turner is doing. Whether or not he can slow it down is another question.
Chargers- Norv Turner brought the emotion to the locker room at halftime during the Chargers’ game against the Titans in week 8. It helped. They’ve won their last two and look poised enough to play their best football in November and December.
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