Dec 29, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) reacts in the second half after setting the NFL single season passing yardage record against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Broncos-Chargers Matchups That Matter, Keys to Winning

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We’re now only two days away from Broncos-Chargers part III. I’m in South Dakota, and you’d be amazed at how many Charger fans have come out of the woodwork now that their team is relevant again.

Super.

Of course, you could say the same for Broncos fans, who are appearing out of thin air (HAHA) but that’s okay, because it’s the only bandwagon worth joining.

I’ve had so many people tell me this week (because everyone knows my devotion to Denver) that the Broncos are going to lose to the Chargers, that the Broncos had better watch out for San Diego, or that they think the Chargers are the team of destiny.

It’s starting to freak me out a bit.

The blunt truth of it is, the Broncos are so much better than the Chargers that they’re the biggest favorites this week. The truth is, the Chargers caught lightning in a bottle a few weeks ago when they beat the Broncos. I don’t care about any trend that says the last few Champions have beaten the Eagles in their first home game. What about the trend that all Super Bowl champions in the last four years have lost in week 15? That’d be the Broncos in this scenario.

How about the fact that it’s the year of the Horse on the Chinese Zodiac?

You can talk about whatever bogus trends you want. You can say Peyton Manning has never beaten Philip Rivers in the playoffs. News flash: THEY’VE ONLY PLAYED IN THE PLAYOFFS TWICE. You can say that Philip Rivers has never won a Super Bowl. Whatever it is you want to say, go ahead and say it but I’m here to tell you that there are some actual matchups on the field. Matchups that matter, not trends that get everyone worried about what may or may not happen.

Broncos’ CBs vs. Philip Rivers

This is the healthiest the Broncos CBs have been. Philip Rivers is going to try and attack across the middle of the field again against the Broncos, so Champ Bailey is going to need to be ready. The Chargers have somehow become a running team over the course of the season, and I think Rivers only threw 16 passes in their big win over the Bengals.

When the Broncos are in their nickel packages, Chris Harris and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are on the outside and Bailey mans the inside slot. The Chargers are going to try to get the ball to Danny Woodhead a lot out of the backfield, and Rivers is very good with ball placement. In week 15, Denver couldn’t get off the field on third down, and Rivers’ clutch throws were part of the reason why.

The Five-Ten Club

The Broncos had five players score 10 or more touchdowns this season, and guess what? They are all healthy again for the first time in what feels like forever. The last time the Five-Ten Club was all on the field at the same time, the Broncos put up over 50 points against the Tennessee Titans, if I’m not mistaken.

Regardless, Peyton Manning is healthy, his offensive line is healthy, and his targets are healthy. This is a Denver offense that is clicking, and they’ll be able to spread the ball around.

Offensive Line vs. Chargers Front Seven

The Chargers were given a serious jolt with the return of Melvin Ingram, and the emergence of young players up front like Kendall Reyes. San Diego’s defense is growing up before our very eyes, and despite having horrid cornerback play for much of the season, they are getting stingy on the back end thanks to a strong pass rush.

This was one of hte teams that really got under the skin of the Denver offensive line, and has managed to get some good hits on Peyton Manning. It’s going to be important for the Broncos to make these guys play with their backs against the wall.

Third Downs

This is the most critical situation in the game. The Broncos need to be able to get off the field, and they need to do better than 2-9 on third downs if they want to beat the Chargers. This team was lethargic the last time it played San Diego, so they need to be fired up and guys are going to have to make plays.

Bottom Line

If the Broncos don’t revert back to the team they were last year at this time, they should crush the Chargers. San Diego is a playoff team and playing very well right now, but they are also a six seed that backed into the playoffs on some horrendous officiating.

Regardless of circumstance, this is a rivalry game where both teams will be hungry. The Broncos are out for revenge, and I think they’ll get it. I’m not into score predictions, but I’m pretty confident the Broncos will win this game.

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