Broncos @ Chargers Week 12 Game Preview

Philip Rivers of the Chargers gets tackled by Rahim Moore of the Broncos at Sports Authority Field in Denver. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos travel to San Diego this week to wrap up their season series against the Chargers. The (5-5) Broncos occupy 2nd place in the AFC West division standings, one game back from the first place Oakland Raiders. The (4-6) Chargers are two games behind the leader. Denver is riding a 3-game winning streak and has a chance to earn at least a series split with each team in the AFC West with a win against San Diego. The Chargers are in a nose dive after 5 straight losses and are looking to salvage their season. With a win, the Broncos can ensure a .500 or better record against their division opponents for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons.

Weather and Conditions

Sunday's game is scheduled for November 27th at Qualcomm Stadium  for 2:15 p.m. MST. CBS has the coverage, with Ian Eagle doing the commentary and the biased Dan Fouts will be the color analyst. Check the Broadcast map to see if it is available in your area.

Qualcomm Stadium is an open air venue with a Grass surface. It seats 71, 294, but isn't expected to be at full capacity at game time. However, as of noon Thursday, the blackout has been lifted for the game.

The weather forecast looks to be optimal for the game, but for the current conditions in the San Diego area, consult this link.

Skc
Sunny
Temperature: 52/85f
OFFENSE


This chart represents the Rankings for the Chargers Offense as compared to the Broncos Defense. I have also included last week's rankings for the Broncos so you can see progress or regress. The DVOA stat is taken from Football Outsiders and is explained here.

Chargers Broncos
Offense Rank      Category Rank Defense Last Week 2 Weeks
23.6 T-12th      Points For T-23rd  24.7 30th 31st
390.2 8th      Total Yds 17th  356.4 18th 22nd
287.8 4th      Pass Yds 21st  243.1 20th 23rd
102.4 20th      Rush Yds 16th  117.6 16th 15th
  25 23rd         Sacks T-8th  27 T-8th T-11th
N/A N/A Forced Fumbles T-13th   9 T-17th T-18th
  17 T-1st   Interceptions T-23rd   7 T-23rd T-21st
48.90% 4th   3rd Downs 8th 35.60% 19th 16th
6.00% 16th   Overall DVOA 18th 6.30% 24th 17th
  -10  Turnover Margin  -4 24th T-23rd
  38 4th   QB Hits Allowed N/A N/A N/A N/A

 

Bronco fans all know that Philip Rivers (3023 Yds, a 61.9 Comp %, 15 TDs, a league leading 17 INTs and an 81.1 QB Rating) is the Chargers quarterback. So much so, that No. 2 guy Billy Volek hasn't had any playing time this season. 

The Running Backs are leading rusher Ryan Mathews (580 yds, a 4.5 avg, 3 TDs and 35 Receptions for 379 yds), Mike Tolbert (296 yds, a 3.9 avg, 4 TDs and and 42 Rec, for 351 yds, 2 TDs ) and Curtis Brinkley (43 yds, a 4.3 avg, 1 TD and 3 Rec. for 24 yds ). Fullback Jacob Hester (66 yds and a 3.7 avg. and 10 Rec, 43 yds, 1 TD) paves the way for the RB's.  

The Chargers will be without starting Wide Receiver Malcom Floyd (19 Rec, 401 yds and 1 TD). Patrick Crayton (15 Rec, 152 yds) and Rookie Vincent Brown (12 Rec, 210 yds. 1TD) are trying to pick up the slack. Vincent Jackson (42 Rec, 800 yds and 7 TDs) has pretty much been most of San Diego's Offense and will draw a matchup with Champ Bailey. Richard Goodman has had playing time on Special Teams.      

At Tight End, the aging Antonio Gates (34 Rec, 414 yds, 3 TDs) has fought off an early season foot injury and is almost back on track. Randy McMichael (21 rec, 190 yds) and Kory Sperry (1-32 yds) see more time blocking.

San Diego's Offensive Line is a mess. At the beginning of the season, the line looked like this: LT Marcus McNeill, LG 
Kris Dielman, C  Nick Hardwick, RG Louis Vasquez and RT Jeromey Clary. McNeill, Dielman and his backup, Tyronne Green and Vasquez are all on IR, out or injured.

Last week the lineup looked like this: LT Brandyn Dombrowski (4 Sack Allowed), LG Scott Mruczkowski (1 SA), C Nick Hardwick (1 False Start), Rookie RG Steve Schilling and RT Jeromey Clary (6 pen, 3 FS, 1 Hold, 5.5 SA). This group managed to keep Rivers on his feet against the Bears, with Julius Peppers having the only QB hit. 

McNeill, Green and Vasquez have not practiced this week and with the exception of Vasquez, are unlikely to play Sunday. Backup Lineman Scott Mruczkowski suffered a Concussion on Sunday and is headed for Injured Reserve. That leaves recently signed Ike Ndukwe, who had 15 starts for the Dolphins in 2008 and 3 starts for the Chiefs in 2009, to try and stop Marcus Thomas and Broderick Bunkley. The Chargers also have 6th year Tackle Tony Moll and promoted C Colin Baxter from their Practice Squad.
 

DEFENSE

This chart represents the Rankings for the Chargers Defense as compared to the Broncos Offense.

Chargers Broncos
Defense Rank Category Rank Offense Last Week 2 Weeks
25.9 28th  Points Against 20th 20.5 21st 21st
336.1 13th     Total Yds 27th 309.2 22nd 20th
211.7 8th     Pass Yds 21st 242.3 31st 31st
124.4 23rd     Rush Yds  4th 154.9 5th 8th
  18 T-26th       Sacks 19th 24 21st 26th
  5 T-29th Forced Fumbles N/A N/A N/A N/A
 10 T-16th    Interceptions T-22nd   8 T-20th T-15th
47.40% 31st     3rd Downs 26th 32.60% 26th 24th
15.40% 29th   Overall DVOA 23rd -2.20% 19th 24th
64/505 T-15th      Penalties T-22nd 60/532 T-24th 27th
N/A N/A  QB Hits Allowed 10th   43 13th 10th

 

The Chargers Defensive Line has Rookie Corey Liuget (8 TKL, 1 FF) at RDE,  Antonio Garay (39 TKL, 2 SK) at NT and Vaughn Martin (29 TKL) at LDE. The backups are Jacques Cesaire (12 TKL), Cam Thomas (9 TKL, 1 SK, 1 PD), Tommie Harris (7 TKL, 1 SK) and Luis Castillo (1 TKL) who is injured. Everette Brown (2 TKL) was added 2 weeks ago.

The Outside Linebackers are injured Shaun Phillips (23 TKL, 3 SK, 3 PD, 1 INT) and Travis LaBoy (25 TKL, 1 SK, 1 FF). Antwan Barnes (21 TKL, 6 SK, 1 PD, 2 FF) will start for Phillips. Rookie Bront Bird (4 TKL) and the  recently signed Kevin Bentley are the backups. The Inside Linebackers are Takeo Spikes (62 TKL, 1 SK, 2 PD) and Donald Butler (64 TKL, 1 SK, 1 PD, 1 INT,1 FF). Na’il Diggs (21 TKL) and Rookie Andrew Gachkar (8 TKL) are the 2nd options. 


At Left Corner, Quentin Jammer (29 TKL, 7 PD) is the starter, though Dante Hughes (25 TKL, 2 PD) has had plenty of play time. Rookie Shareece Wright hasn't seen much action outside Special Teams. On the Right side, Antoine Cason (32 TKL, 8 PD, 1 INT) starts and Rookie Marcus Gilchrist (25 TKL, 3 PD, 1 INT) is the Nickel.   

The Strong Safeties are Steve Gregory (32 TKL, 2 PD) and Darrell Stuckey (8 TKL). The Free Safeties are Eric Weddle (59 TKL, 6 PD, 5 INT) and Paul Oliver (11 TKL, 2 PD, 1 INT). 


SPECIAL TEAMS

This chart represents the Rankings for both teams Special Teams Units.

Chargers Rank Special Teams Rank Broncos Last Week
48.7 3rd Punt-Avg(Gross) 5th 48.3 5th
39.7 12th   Punt-Avg (Net) 3rd 41.5 2nd
8.7 24th   Punt Ret-Avg 3rd 15.6 3rd
15.7   PR-Avg Allowed 9.7
23.9 T-14th    Kick Ret-Avg 4th 26.9 9th
26.2 25th   KR-Avg Allowed 16th 23.3 6th
20/23 87%    FG Made/Att 67% 10/15 64%
-2.40% 27th   Overall DVOA 9th 2.30% 8th

 

Kicker Nick Novak is 19/22 (86.4%) on Field Goal Attempts, with a long of 52 yards. He is 21/21 on Extra Points. His kickoff depth averages to the 5 yard line. Novak has kicked off 50 times, with 18 touchbacks (36% of the time) and 31 have been returned an average of 24.5 yards. 

Mike Scifres is the Punter. He has punted 30 times with a grossing 48.7 yards and a 39.7 Net. His longest went 71 yards and  has put 11 Inside the 20. 8 have been Fair Caught and 16 have been returned for a 15.7 average. Mike is also the holder and emergency FG Kicker.

The Long Snapper is Mike Windt. He replaced David Binn, a long-time fixture in San Diego.


Richard Goodman (21 Returns for a  26.3 avg, 44 Long) has done a decent job as the Chargers Kick returner. Jacob Hester (3 KR, 23.7 avg) and Marcus Gilchrist (3 KR, 15.3 avg) have taken reps also. Patrick Crayton (17 PR, 10.1 avg, 31 Long) handles the Punt Returning and Antoine Cason is the backup.

SERIES HISTORY


This will be the 104th regular season meeting between these two teams. The Broncos are 54-48-1 (.529) all-time against the Chargers in the regular season (19-32 on the road). The Broncos are 3-7 in their last 10 visits to Qualcomm dating back to 2001. San Diego has won the last four games, including the Week 5 meeting on October 9th by a score of 29-24. The last time Denver won at Qualcomm Stadium was a 34-23 result on October 19, 2009.          

The line in Vegas opened with the Chargers favored by 6.5 points. The odds have since moved to 6.


THE BOTTOM LINE


On Offense, the Broncos strength (the run) is the Chargers weakness. Denver has moved up from the 8th ranking 3 weeks ago down to 2nd and settling at #4 this week running the ball. The Chargers are definitely better defending the pass than the run. Look for more of the same grinding run game from Denver. The 2nd ranked Jets Defense slowed it down a little, but not enough. Willis McGahee has had more time to recuperate this week. That will be the difference. Until someone stops the Read Option, the Broncos will keep doing it. Keep it simple and execute.

The Broncos are playing with a lot of swagger and confidence. I see a few matchups and keys to this game. The Chargers O-Line is a makeshift unit and I believe the Broncos have a better pass rush than the Bears, who were only able to hut Philip Rivers once last week. It will be the utmost importance to get in Rivers face, because even though he leads the NFL in Interceptions, he has weapons in Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates. If Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil can disrupt Rivers, he may offer up a few picks. Champ Bailey will likely matchup with V-Jax, which leaves Gates in a mismatch with whoever draws coverage on him. The Chargers Offense is averaging about 23 points per game  and the Broncos Defense is holding their opponents to around 20 per game. Somehow, that doesn't add up to the 6 point spread. We shall see this Sunday.

Go Broncos!                    


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