On one side of the ball, the Broncos are looking to clinch the divisional title and ensure a playoff spot, while on the other side of the ball, the Chargers need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive and well amidst a large pack of contenders in the AFC.
With a win, the Broncos would clinch their fourth straight AFC West title, ensuring a spot in the playoffs and at least one home playoff game. With a loss, the Broncos would drop to 10-4, which would leave them just one game up on the Chargers for the divisional lead in the AFC West, and would almost certainly guarantee that the Patriots win the number one seed in the AFC.
Broncos players are all too aware of this reality, including Emmanuel Sanders, who explained the urgency in keeping pace with the Pats, "We want to win out the rest of the regular season, so hopefully we can clinch home-field advantage depending on what New England does."
On the other side of the field, the Chargers are almost in a must-win situation at this point in the season. The Chargers currently hold the sixth and final playoff seed in the NFL with an 8-5 record; however, the Chargers are one of nine teams in the AFC with 8-5, 8-4-1, or 7-6 records.
According to Football Outsiders, the Chargers currently hold just a 25.8% chance of finding their way into the NFL playoffs, and a loss in combination with wins from any of the other fringe playoff teams (Bengals, Steelers, Chargers,Ravens, Texans, Dolphins, Chiefs, Browns, Bills) could mean that San Diego is on the outside looking in on the playoff picture after Week 15, with just two games remaining.
Obviously, the players on both teams know what is at stake on Sunday, as cornerback Aqib Talib called Sunday's match-up "the biggest game." The veteran corner, who knows what it means to play in important games down the stretch, expanded on that statement by saying that, "we think those guys have a lot to play for and we've got a lot to play for. So it'll be a good game."
If won, the division title would be the third of the Peyton Manning era in Denver, after records of 13-3 over each of past two seasons, his first two in Denver. The first title in the Broncos' current streak was won in 2011, fondly (and not so fondly) remembered in Broncos Country as 'Tebow Time'. The Chargers are not so far removed from a division title themselves, last earning the distinction as the best team in the AFC West in the 2009 season.
While it may be tempting to look past this game and what it could mean for either team, both teams remain solely focused on the Week 15 game at hand. This attitude was emanated by CJ Anderson, who emphasized that "We know how big the game is, and we know what we want to do and what it means to playoff seeds and things of that nature, but at the end of the day, we've just got to take care of the Chargers."
Taking care of the Chargers is priority No. 1, according to Broncos captain Demarcus Ware who knows how important this game is in the grand scheme of things. The veteran defensive end has seen multiple playoff opportunities slip away throughout his years in Dallas, and he knows the importance of taking care of things early.
"Sometimes it's good to do things early, and dictate your own destiny," Ware said. "You don't want to have to worry about what other teams are doing. When you have the opportunity and it's sitting there right in front of your face, you want to make sure you sort of solidify where you are and what you're trying to do."