The 7-1 Denver Broncos head to San Diego to take on the 4-4 San Diego Chargers. The Broncos look to continue their recent dominance against the AFC West this week. Last year the Broncos swept the AFC West(6-0), and are 1-0 this season. Lets take a look at five things to keep an eye on while you watch the game.
1. Replacing Fox:
Head Coach John Fox underwent Heart surgery over the past weekend, and will be out 4-6 Weeks. In his absence Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio will be the Denver Broncos interm Head Coach. The big question is, will the absence of Fox slow down the Broncos? I don't think it will.
Losing your head coach is never good. Look at the 2012 New Orleans Saints as an example, but the Broncos have a very good coaching staff, and a guy named Peyton Manning. The Broncos already have a weekly routine in place, so I don't expect anything to change in that aspect. The only real concern I have is Del Rio's game managing.
Here's what our own Bronco Mike had to say about this..
Del Rio will now have the double duty of calling defensive signals as well as making decisions about everything a coach would do strategy wise from clock management to replay reviews. He will have to find a balance between remaining in charge and meeting with the defense to discuss things during the game. It is an added stress that Del Rio hasn't had the past couple of years.
What to Expect
Del Rio is now at the helm of a team that has won 20 games in the past 25. This is a well oiled machine. All he needs to do is manage things and not get into the way. And by manage, I mean make sure this team stays on course. There is no reason to micromanage or interrupt how people have been going about their job.
Though he has a reputation for being conservative, as far as offense, I don't expect Del Rio to trump the things Gase and Manning are doing. His job is to oversee and interject where needed, not take over.
Again the mantra with Del Rio is "manage, not micromanage"
Del Rio does have 9 years of Head Coaching experience with the Jacksonville Jaguars, so I think he can handle the game day duties. All the Broncos need Del Rio to do is manage the game for the Broncos. Let Manning/Gase do their thing on the offense, and let Del Rio run the defense ect.
2. Mike McCoy Vs The Broncos:
Mike McCoy was the Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator, and play caller last season. He implemented the Broncos offensive scheme with Peyton Manning last season, so It won't be too farfetched to say that McCoy knows the Broncos offensive scheme very well. This gives McCoy a unique perspective on how to attack the Broncos offense.
Another thing to think about is that Manning and McCoy probably talked about what defensive schemes, and blitz's that give Manning the most trouble. Also McCoy knows about Manning's arm limitations. While Manning's arm has looked better this past season, McCoy knows what he could, and couldn't do last season. McCoy also knows nuances of the offensive scheme. This will allow McCoy to teach the checks, adjustments ect Manning makes at the line. Sure Manning will switch it up, but McCoy's knowledge of this cannot hurt.
It will be a true chess match on the field between the two guys. Manning knows McCoy, and McCoy knows Manning. Here's the thing, you can teach players all you want about how to stop Manning, but it's so much easier said then done. First they have to execute the play perfectly, and try not to tip their hand to Manning. It will be a fun battle to watch. A battle that Peyton usually ends up winning.
3. Stopping Phillip Rivers:
Yes we all hate Phillip Rivers, but we have to respect his play. Rivers has been pretty damn good this season. Rivers has passed for 2,473 yards, 17 touchdowns and 7 Ints. Rivers is completing a very very good 72% if his passes, and has a 106.5 QB rating on the season.
This isn't the 2012 Phillip Rivers where he was gift wrapping turnovers to the opposing defenses. Rivers is also getting rid of the ball quickly. In 8 games, he has only been sacked 12 times. Rivers does have a tendency to go to his check down option a lot, and the Chargers offense is a rhythm based offense where they want Rivers to get rid of the ball quickly, and let the receivers make the plays. It will be up to the Broncos defense to disrupt this ryhthm. So the Broncos defense has to cover well, and get after Rivers quickly. If they do not do both, he will pick apart the Broncos secondary.
4. Limiting Turnovers:
The Broncos have been turning the ball over a lot lately. Turnovers doomed the Broncos in Indy, and Manning had 3 interceptions against the Redskins a few weeks back. The Broncos have had 7 turnover in the last two games. 4 interceptions, and 3 fumbles. That is not championship football.
The Broncos will need to limit these turnovers if they want to have success in this tough four game stretch. If you turn the ball over in this league, other teams will make you pay for it. If you lose the turnover battle in the game, you more then likely lose the game.
5. Bye Week Rust?
The Broncos are coming off a much needed bye week. It gives players a week to get healthy, or healthier, and It gives them some time away from the grind of a NFL season. That's all good right there, but there's always a risk of losing the rhythm you have gained from the following weeks.
Will Peyton, and the Broncos offense come out firing on all cylinders? Will the defense be reading, and reacting to the offense and not blowing coverages? That's what I'm worried about. The loss of their Head Coach could also play into this. Hopefully they come out looking fresh, rested and firing on all cylinders, but i wouldn't be shocked if it takes a few quarters for this team to find their rhythm.