A few weeks ago we were sitting here after a tough loss against a conference opponent and looking ahead toward the upcoming must win divisional match-up against the lowly Raiders. Now we are sitting here after a tough loss against a conference opponent and looking ahead toward the upcoming must win divisional match-up against our real competition. What is it they say 'bout insanity and doing things over and over again? Win this and at .500 we are 1st in the division, perfect in the division, and better than our competition....lose this to drop to 2-4 and the rest of the season becomes "must win" in order to qualify for the tournament. For the Chargers, this is their opportunity to assert their claim to AFC West Supremacy with everyone else being more or less an afterthought. These stakes our high and personally, I wouldn't have it any other way!
I usually devote a great deal of time in these previews to recapping the things that went on the previous week along with pointing things out about what we have learned so far....I think the questions are starting to settle a bit as we have a pretty good understanding of our team. So here's a much more abbreviated version this time around:
- Joe Mays is not an NFL starting caliber MLB
- Our offense can move the ball on anyone, but has struggled finding a rhythm on the ground due to early deficits and "catch-up"
- Our defense has to be the worst in the league on 3rd and long (eye test not number backed)
- Our line is doing a decent job considering all of the serious injuries and lack of good talent back-up wise (speaking of Manny here)
- Demaryius Thomas is having a beast of a season even though he's fumbled and dropped some of it away
- Von Miller will eat your children
- Joe Mays is not an NFL starting caliber MLB....oh wait, sorry
- Phillip Rivers still looks like "Sloth" from the Goonies
- The Chargers have one of the worst wishy washy fan bases in the NFL----sell out a game already guys!
- Consistency is the one word answer to all our problems in Broncos Country
Speaking of those Chargers, they are an opponent we know well. Recent history has been relatively even with us splitting the series the past 4 years. For better or worse, they have been the biggest thorn in our orange and blue sides and they are our only real competition within the division in 2012.
This game should see the return of Ryan Mathews to a full time workload after being eased into playing action the last three weeks. Last year his two best rushing performances of the year happened against our team to the tune of 125 and 137 yards respectively and an overall 5.7 yards per carry average. Given that our run defense has been inconsistent and was gashed by NE (albeit mostly because of tempo), this is something to keep an eye on.
"Sloth" has had a decent yet inconsistent year so far putting up some solid overall passing numbers while at the same time managing to cough the ball up 8 times total through INT's and fumbles. For reference, Manning has half that amount this year.
Looking at their conquests so far, they have beaten the Chiefs (1-4), the Titans (2-4), and Raiders (1-3)----that's a combined 4-11 if you're keeping track. Their defeats have come to the hands of the Saints (1-4), and Falcons (5-0). So pretty much, like us, they have lost games they should have (NO is a talented team that has lost a lot of close games so far), and won the games they should have.
On offense, they rank 21st in yards, 17th in passing, 16th in rushing, and 12th in scoring (about a FG less than our offense per game). They are a middle of the pack team offensively, period. Their good scoring rank has been helped by an opportunistic defense that has forced 10 turnovers through 5 games. Speaking of that defense, they are ranked 13th in yards, 21st in passing yards, 5th in rushing yards, and 13th in points. There's no doubt has been pretty good thus far (though their opponents leave a lot to be desired offensively outside of NO). Like last week, the weakness seems to be the secondary.
Matchup-wise, I will be looking for a few things:
1) Shaun Phillips against our protection---so far this year, he has 4.5 sacks out of the 10 total on the Charger defense. He could cause problems coming off the edge against Orlando Franklin.
2) Eric Weddle, Antoine Cason against DT. Between them, these guys have forced five turnovers. Given DT's ball security issues so far (which by now has made it to the scouting reports of every defensive coordinator that we will face) this is something to keep an eye on.
3) Gates/Mathews against against Joe Mays. Everyone else has burned Joe Mays, why wouldn't the Chargers test him?
4) Von Miller v. everyone. Von is such a joy to watch everyweek. His impact on all facets of the game is starting to dominate drive sequences. He had an amazing game last year against this Charger team. The same play where he tackled the RB for a loss to set up Kaedings failed FG was the same play he injured his thumb on.
5) Our new return guy Speedy McSpeederson. Will he play? 5'5" , 10.5 in the 100 meter dash. Dude can burn and we have had success against the SD return units in recent history.
Keys to the Game
Normally on offense and defense I have a list of about five things I would like to see out of each unit. Not this week. I just want to see one thing:
That's it, that is the name of the game. I want our offense to come out and be consistent with scoring opportunities. We have moved the ball great only to come away with nothing after some boneheaded turnovers. This has to stop. And while I'd like to say there should be more balance, it is hard to have balance when you find yourself down by two scores early in the game. So defense, do us all a favor and get your butts off the field on 3rd down huh? The more times you succeed here, the more opportunities Manning has to shred SD's secondary. If we are consistent on both sides of the ball for the entire 60 minutes, we should win this game handily. One final plea to JDR, either play nickel the entire game and keep Joe Mays off the damn field, or give him some help in coverage. It also wouldn't hurt if you would make some adjustments on defense before the 3rd Q.
Broncos 41 Chargers 37
yes, I think this will be a shootout