Chargers vs. Broncos 3.0. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
For the first time in their long-tenured rivalry, the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers will meet in the playoffs, and it’s a matchup that the Broncos have to be looking forward to.
A matchup to look forward to not because San Diego is an inferior opponent, but because the Broncos will have revenge on their minds. San Diego is one of three teams to take down the Broncos this season, and joined Houston, Baltimore, New England, Indianapolis, and Atlanta as the only teams to beat the Broncos in the last two seasons.
The Chargers are one of just three teams to beat the Broncos in Denver since Tim Tebow was the quarterback back in 2011, and Denver has defended the Mile High home field well, losing only three games there in 2012 and 2013 combined, playoffs included.
In week 15, San Diego pulled off what seemed to be the impossible. Head coach and former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy vowed the Chargers would win, and they did. They came into Denver, gave up a quick touchdown and trailed 7-0 against the mighty Broncos, but battled back and won the game.
Winning in Denver is not easy, and has been nearly impossible since Peyton Manning became the quarterback. Since Manning was signed, Denver lost a close game in week three of 2012 to the Texans, gave up a hail mary that gave new life to eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore, and then saw San Diego play keep away this season.
With memories of last year’s playoff game and revenge against San Diego on their minds, the Broncos will have much more to play for now than they did in week 15, when players were openly annoyed about having to play on Thursday night football.
The high octane Broncos offense had just come off of a game where they were physically drained, and quite frankly the Chargers needed to win that game or they had no shot at making the playoffs. It was do or die, and in the role of underdog San Diego has excelled of late.
Despite having gotten into the playoffs on pure luck and a lack of correct officiating, the Chargers shocked the Cincinnati Bengals on their home field, becoming the first team this season to win in Cincinnati. People are comparing this Chargers team to last year’s Baltimore Ravens team thanks to an opportunistic defense and an offense that is playing well in every area.
Do the Chargers have the firepower to beat Denver? That’s been proven already. Are the Chargers going to beat the Broncos IN Denver again?
That’s another story entirely.
In the NFL, you can never chalk up a game as a guaranteed victory, especially in the playoffs. Just look at this past weekend. Only one home team came away victorious, and it took a miraculous comeback that was unheard of by the Indianapolis Colts to keep one home team alive.
The role of spoiler in college football is certainly something that has been a trend of late. Teams in recent years have proven that it doesn’t matter what seed you are in the playoffs, and frankly it doesn’t matter if you have home field. If you get hot at the right time, you’re going to win football games, regardless of where it’s played or who you are playing against.
So, the Broncos are dealing with a San Diego team that is in over its head, which is a dangerous thing for Denver. The Chargers have nothing to lose. Philip Rivers is playing some of the best ball of his life, and he’s really not having to do a whole lot.
But after losing to the Chargers, something clicked for the Broncos as well. Peyton Manning and the offense started getting more aggressive. The defense has started to find personnel groupings that are more effective. Players who have missed significant time with injury issues are getting healthy, and the Broncos are playing some of their best ball of the season as well.
Despite playing games on the road in Houston and at home against Oakland, it’s clear that the Broncos finished the season all about business and ending on a high note. The masses seem to be buying in to San Diego’s Cinderella story, but I’m not buying it just yet. The Broncos are no slouch, and many pundits are simply using Denver’s debacle of a season ago as the barometer for how they’ll fare in 2013.
The Chargers are the flavor of the day. The Broncos have been so dominant at times this season that people have grown numb to their greatness. Denver is not without flaw, nor are they a lock to come out of the AFC. But they have as good a shot as anyone, and they have the most explosive offense in the history of the league to back it up.
Everyone is saying the Broncos ought not overlook the Chargers, but that opinion has become so popular that it seems the inverse should be true. It’s time for everyone to stop underestimating the Denver Broncos, though they certainly don’t need the extra motivation.