San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos -- The Edge

 

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2008 OFFENSE

Category Broncos Chargers
Points Scored 41.0 (1st) 24.0 (23rd)
Passing 300.0 (4th) 211.0 (11th)
Rushing 141.0 (11th) 105.0 (20th)
Total Offense (yards) 441.0 (4th) 316.0 (15th)

2008 DEFENSE

Category Broncos Chargers
Points Scored 14.0 (10th)  26.0 (25th)
Passing 157.0 (10th) 246.0 (27th)
Rushing 150.0 (25th) 142.0 (23rd)
Total Defense (yards) 307.0 (15th) 388.0 (27th)

Week 2, and Broncos fans are riding high after dominating the Raiders.  Can they do it again, and at the same time take a two-game divisional lead over the Poweder Blue???  Let's find out...

It's Broncos/Chargers. Who has "The Edge"?

 

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Quarterback
This matchup might be the most watched on Sunday, and the two won't have any impact on how the other plays.  We all know the story about the taunt that wasn't, but the fact remains that perception is reality, especially in an emotional game like football.  The Broncos feel they have a score to settle.  You know it's a big deal when Champ Bailey comes out and tell Philip Rivers to shut his yap.

All that off the field stuff isn't the reason I pick Cutler.  He's just the better quarterback.  Stronger arm, more accurate, stronger mentally.  Yes, Rivers has had more success, but now that Cutler is 100% healthy it's a whole new ball game.  He's better, and he has that extra bit of motivation.  Chargers fans won;t admit it, but deep down they know what Rivers is and they don't like it too much.

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Running Back
Even the biggest homer can't ignore that L.T. is one of the best in the League, now and ever.  I also can't ignore that Tomlinson has owned the Broncos the last 4 meetings after the Broncos did a solid job of keeping him contained early in his career.  L.T. is a bit banged up coming into Sunday, but he got stronger as the day went on against Carolina.  He will be a factor and the Broncos need to keep him under wraps if they hope to win.  The Chargers know that the Broncos are going to come after Rivers, and it may be tough for L.T. to get yards strictly in the running game.  Look for Sa Diego to throw alot of screens, trying to take advantage of an over-aggressive linebacking corp.

For Denver, it's easy.  Get as much production from as many different guys as possible.  Selvin Young, Andre Hall, Michael Pittman, Peyton Hillis.  Whoever it is, whatever it takes.  The Panthers did a good job with a two back system last week against the Chargers, and I expect the Broncos to try and dictate the game with the running game, especially if they get a lead.  The best defense against L.T., afterall, is not allowing him to get on the field.

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Receiver
This would have been Even, perhaps tipping towards the Chargers, had Eddie Royal not exploded on the scene Monday Night.  Don't listen to all the B.S. about it being against the Raiders.  Oakland was 8th in the NFL against the pass last year and the Broncos, with the strong play of Royal as well as some awesome play-calling, shredded it for 60 minutes.  Oh, did I mention that Brandon Marshall is back?  He is the best receiver on the field, and motivated to make up for missing Week 1.  Think about it...  The Panthers, without Steve Smith, threw for 246 yards against the Chargers.  The Broncos receivers are better across the board than anything the Panthers threw out there last week.  246 for the Panthers??  How about 350 for the Broncos.

The Chargers obviously have talent outside.  I like Chris Chambers alot, and Vincent Jackson will create size matchup problems for whoever covers him.  Antonio Gates is the best at what he does, but he is dinged up a bit as well.  I like the Broncos receiving corp, top to bottom, with Brandon Stokley getting it done, as well as Tony Scheffler.

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Offensive Line
Once again, injuries play a part in this, but how can you not like the Broncos O-Line.  Ryan Clady and Ryan Harris have been outstanding all season long, pre-season included, and these guys are only going to get better.  Tom Nalen is still a question mark, but I have to admit Casey Wiegmann has fit right into the system.  Not only his veteran leadership, but just the knowledge of the AFC West opponents, playing in Kansas City all those years.  Until the Broncos give up a sack, they are going to be my pick every week, regardless of the competition.

For the Chargers, Marcus McNeill hasn't practiced the past couple of days and is questionable for Sunday.  The Chargers have solid dpeth, and they played pretty well themselves on Sunday, allowing the Panthers to get to Rivers just once.

Still, Jay Cutler wasn't touched Monday Night, despite being on the road.  I like the Broncos. 

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Defensive Line
This is the one big difference remaining between the two teams.  The Broncos D-Line is young and upcoming, the Chargers have a D-Line filled with talent.  The big question is, can the Chargers group stay healthy?

Jamal Williams and Luis Castillio are as good as it gets in a 3-4 defense.  Toss in Igor OlShansky, and the Chargers can bring the heat, no doubt about it.  When on the field, this group is as good as there is in the NFL.  One has to wonder, however, if Castillo and Williams are healthy.  They disappered at times last week against the Panthers, and for the Chargers to be successful they need those guys to play at a high level.

The Broncos crew showed flashes on Monday night of getting pressure up front but the consistentcy has yet to be there.  It will be interesting to see what group Shanahan chooses to go with, Jarvis Moss for the pass rush or Ebenezar Ekuban and the run defense.  Either way, I like the Chargers group better and the battle between the Broncos O-Line and the Chargers D-Line should be classic to watch.

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Linebacker
A healthy Shawne Merriman gives the Chargers the edge, easily.  If Stephen Cooper was playing, I'd feel the Chargers had a slight edge.  The fact that both of those guys are off the field and it is still even tells you what I think of San Diego's depth.  Jyles Tucker is a player and while he is no Shawne Merriman, he will be effective.  The 3-4 defense relies on a type of player more than just high level talent, and like James Harrison in Pittsburgh, sometimes you find a guy late in the draft, or undrafted, whose skill set fits.  Tucker is one of those guys.  Matt Wilhem isn't flashy, but is a very intelligent linebacker who won't make many mistakes.  Of course, the Chargers still have Shaun Phillps and he is an impact player that the Broncos will need to be leary of.

For the Broncos, I may have given them the nod if I knew for sure that Boss Bailey was going to play.  Bailey was slated to play on Monday, but despite being active and dressed stayed on the sidelines.  Bailey is a good Ying to Nate Webster's Yang, and the group is better with that combination next to D.J. Williams.  If Jamie Winborn gets the call again, the Broncos defensive situation gets a bit dicey, especially againt Tomlinson.  The Broncos will have to maintain gap integrity and neither Webster or Winborn can list that as a strength.  Both teams have playmakers, both teams have questions.  Call it a draw.

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Secondary
More injury concern for the Chargers, with CB Antonio Cromartie nursing a hip injury that has him questionable.  With Cromartie, Quentin Jammer and 2008 1st round pick Antoine Cason, the Chargers have a solid set of corners.  So do the Broncos, with Champ Bailey, Dre Bly and Karl Paymah.  Both groups are athletic and like to make plays on the ball.  The game may easily be won or lost here.

At safety is where I feel the Broncos have a definite advantage.  Let me start by saying I really like Eric Weddle.  I think he is going to be a great player in this League.  That said, the Broncos pair of Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel is better than Clinton Hart and Weddle.  You saw where the Panthers attacked the Chargers last week, down the middle, and I think the Broncos will try and take their shots towards these guys as well.

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Special Teams
The AFC West is home to some of the best punters and placekickers in football.  Last week it was Janikowski and Lechler.  This week doesn't get any easier, with Nate Keading and Mike Scifres.  If Lechler is the best punter in the NFL, then Scifres is a close 2nd.  He can flip field position at will, and in a game like this, field position is going to be huge  Kaeding is as solid as it gets, making close to 90% of his kicks the past 3 years.

The Broncos have what appears to be a solid kicking game as well, though it is too early to tell.  Both teams will need to get it done in kick coverage, but Darren Sproles is one of the best returning kicks.  Special Teams is a definite advatage for the Chargers.


This game has all the looks of a classic.  The Broncos definitely feel like they have a score to settle with the Chargers.  Jay Cutler is on a mission to prove to everyone that last year had more to do with his medical condition and nothing at all to do with talent, or lack thereof.  At the same time, when do you start to wonder if Philip Rivers is already as good as he's going to be?  He's solid, and has his moments, but too often can let his emotions get to him.

The Chargers are also beat up a bit, and I have no problem saying we may be getting our first shot at them at precisely the right time.  With L.T. dinged up, and Rivers still coming back from the knee injury, the Broncos need to tak advantage of the opportunity to put the Chargers 2 games down.

I expect a close game throughout, but the Broncos have too much firepower.  Jay Cutler, Mike Shanahan and Co. have the offense rolling, having scored on 13/19(68%) possessions in the pre-season and regular season.  With Marshall back in the lineup I don't expect that to change this week.  Oh, and did I mention that Mike Shanahan just doesn't lose home openers?? (14-1, 12-1 w/ Denver)  Since 1984, the Broncos are the best in football in Home Openers(21-3).  They don't plan on losing now.

FINAL PREDICTION: Denver Broncos 31 - San Diego Chargers 24.

Oh, please take a moment to "BUZZ UP" the post at the top of the page.  Thanks!

GO BRONCOS!

GAMEDAY  WEATHER --

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