The Broncos will entertain their division rivals from San Diego Sunday night to decide who, for now, will be in 1st place in the AFC West, and perhaps a high seed in the playoff race. There is plenty of times, and several games yet to go, but this one will be key a month from now when the two teams meet again in Southern California. Here are some of my thought son the game.
Health Not A Factor, For Denver Anyway -- The Broncos have been beat up the past couple of week, with three defensive starters missing action last week in Oakland. After a good week of practice, Ian Gold, Ebenezar Ekuban and Patrick Chukwurah should all return tonite and see extended action. That will be important for the Broncos since the Chargers lead the league in scoring. San Diego, on the other hand, has some injury concerns on the defensive side of the ball. Luis Castillo is very questionable with a high-ankle sprain, and Shawne Merriman will miss the game becuase of a steroid suspension. The Broncos need to take advantage of the Chargers "misfortune" and get the offense going.
Keep L.T. Under Wraps -- The Broncos are 5-0 at home against the Chargers in the Tomlinson era, and in each of those games have held #21 under the century mark. If the Broncos are going to have success they need to stop L.T. and force Philip Rivers to beat them. Rivers has been sensational this year but if I had to decide who to take my chances with I'd have to go with Rivers over L.T. who is simply awesome. The Broncos have done a great job in the past stringing Tomlinson out, and forcing him to run North/South where his ellusiveness is stymied. Even when L.T. is out of the game, his backup Michael Turner is nearly as dangerous and the denfense needs to be ready for him as well
Get Creative With The Playbook -- When the Broncos played the Colts and Steelers in back to back weeks the offense seemd to have a jump in it's step, and rhythem in the playcall. It seemed to be fresh and creative. Last week, the Broncos offense seemed to get back into a rut, with the playcalling seeming to vanilla. Sure, when your quarterback throws interceptions you need to be careful, but at some point this season we are going to have to win or lose with our best stuff. When the Broncos went down the field in the 4th quarter to take the lead against the Raiders the playcalling was much more original and employed alot of misdirection and bootlegs. The result was a TD and a win. Let's hope we get started with that right form the get go.
Whoever The Running Back Is Needs To Be Effective -- Tatum Bell practiced all week, getting the normal amount of reps for a starting tailback. If that means he is healthy then he needs to run hard, hit the holes fast, and show the same explosion he had 4 weeks ago when he led the AFC in rushing. If he is not up to the taks then whomever Shanny decides to activate this week(I hear Sammy Winder is available) needs to get positive yards and hold on to the ball. Mike Bell has showed the most promise of all the "back-ups" and if he is back in uniform tonite he needs to look more like the guy running all over the Colts than the one getting shut down by the Steelers.
How I See It -- When these two divisional rivals get together you know it's going to be a battle. A physical roller coaster where momentum will ebb and flow for 60 minutes. The Broncos have used big plays from the defense to beat the Chargers in the past, and I think we match up favorably with the Charger receivers this time around. To take advantage of that the Broncos will need to get a lead early, then show the Chargers that they won't be able to run the ball by stuffing L.T. If the Broncos can get up 10-0 or so in the first quarter, and force Philip Rivers to have to beat them, I think we'll be all-right. If L.T. can get started, and Rivers can get into a comfort zone, it could be a tough night offensively for Jake and the gang. In my opinion the Bronocs have played vanilla against lower opponents and will come out ready to play tonite. The defense gets Ian Gold and Ebenezar Ekuban back and that will huge to containing L.T. and Turner. It is going to be a dog fight, no doubt about it, but Marty Schottenheimer has nightmares about the Broncos and he'll have some more after the game tonite.
Denver 27 - Chargers 20