This Thursday night the Denver Broncos host the San Diego Chargers. Does this matchup sound familiar and make you grumpy? There's a reason for that. The Broncos only home loss last season was a Thursday night home game verses the Chargers. And that game was a mess.
The good news? There's no way this game will resemble the game last year. Are the Broncos guaranteed to win? Yes! (I mean of course not.) It's a division game and you never know how those games are going to play out. But there are a lot of things different about this Thursday's game than last season's Thursday night loss.
First let's state the obvious:
The most obvious change is that it's 2014 and not 2013. New season. New players. The only thing that's the same is that we're playing the Chargers at home on a Thursday night. If you're sad we're playing the Chargers for the second Thursday night game in a row, imagine how sad Chargers fans are for TRAVELING to Denver for their second Thursday night game in a row!
What else is different?
It was apparent to anyone who watched last season's Thursday night Broncos/Chargers game that the Broncos were exhausted going into that game. There were a lot of reasons for that. And those reasons are not relevant this year.
The Thursday night game is earlier this year.
Last season the Broncos had their Bye on Week 9 and had their Sun/Thur games on Weeks 14 and 15. This season the Broncos had an early Bye on week 4 and have their Sun/Thur games on Weeks 7 and 8. If we have to play a Thursday game I would rather it be earlier than later in the season so a quick recovery is more realistic for players.
The previous Sunday game was easier this year.
The scores were similar Broncos/49ers 42-17, Broncos/Titans 51-28. And in both games there were a lot of records broken (longest field goal! most touchdowns ever!). But the Titans game was a much harder game for the Broncos to win than the final score lets on.
The Titans game was bitterly cold (the pipes burst in a restroom at the stadium that day kind of cold). It was 18 degrees at kickoff and 14 degrees by the time Prater kicked his record breaker right before the half. The 49ers game was a perfect 67 degrees at kickoff. While Peyton's performance in that game temporarily shut down all of the "Peyton can't play in the cold" talk, playing in the cold is harder on your body (or at least I think it would be) than playing in perfect weather.
While the Broncos were in control of the 49ers game pretty much from the get go, things were not the same in the Titans game. The Broncos were in fact behind at halftime (21-20) in the Titans game which is probably why Manning played the entire game that day. Even though the Broncos were ahead by 16 points (44-28) with 9 minutes to go in the 4th quarter Manning remained on the field until the final kneel down.
This year in the 49ers game Manning didn't play a snap in the 4th quarter. Manning is 38 years old. He needs all the rest he can get. Things could not have gone better the Sunday before a Thursday game for him. Manning won't even have the touchdown record on his mind on Thursday.
The Chargers have the injury bug we had last season.
Last season Manning was still fighting an ankle injury and joked with the press that he wanted to just list "body" on the injury report for the rest of the season. This season Manning hasn't made an appearance on the injury report (knock on wood or throw salt over your shoulder or something right now.)
Last season Wes Welker and Derek Wolfe didn't play in the Thursday game and the Broncos Wednesday injury report looked like a list of their entire offense - Manning, Moreno, Decker, and both Demaryrius and Julius Thomas were on that sucker. This season it's the Chargers that are having some serious injury concerns.
The Broncos defense this year is better (understatement) than it was last year.
Last season right in the midst of the Titans/Chargers short week the Broncos benched Wesley Woodyard and Duke Ihenacho. The defense, which was already a bit of a mess, had little to no time to adjust to this change and what resulted on Thursday night was noticeable confusion on the sidelines. And bad defense.
It was painful to watch. The Broncos defense could not get the Chargers offense off the field.
The Chargers "blueprint" to beat the Broncos (keep Manning off the field) is going to be a lot harder this time around. A. LOT. HARDER.
Rivers might very well be running for his life for most of the night this Thursday thanks to Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Are the Chargers a good team and is Rivers having his best year ever? Yes, and probably yes. This most likely won't be an easy win for the Broncos. But if last year's Thursday night results have you concerned you can push that game out of your mind. Because the only thing that's the same this time around is the day of the week and uniforms of the opponent.