AVG. YPA (RNK)
AVG. YPA (RNK)
|4-11||Sports Authority Field at Mile High||11-4|
|4th AFC West||Spread: Broncos by 9||1st AFC West|
The Denver Broncos have put themselves in good position to close the season out with a win and the AFC West championship over the struggling San Diego Chargers. Over the last half of the season, the Broncos are right at .500 having gone 4-4 since starting 7-0 and a big part of that has been some lackluster effort against inferior teams.
An overlooked part of those late season struggles has also been a bruised and battered defensive secondary. It's telling that the Cincinnati Bengals torched the secondary early in the game with both T.J. Ward and Darian Stewart getting their first game action in weeks, but once they settled in the Bengals could muster just 3 points in the second half. That is the defense that has been missing in recent weeks.
The Chargers, on the other hand, had been playing well as of late, but they have suffered incredible setbacks with injuries of their own. Eric Weddle was moved to injured reserve, while both Manti Te'o and Jason Verrett have not participated in any practices this week with injuries of their own. Unfortunately for them, all three of those players were integral parts of their defensive improvement over the last several weeks of the season.
Brock Osweiler vs. Chargers Secondary
This is a matchup where I think Osweiler needs to be careful with the football. The Chargers over the last four weeks have limited opposing quarterbacks to a 61% completion percentage for 777 yards and three touchdowns to match three interceptions. They are giving up less than 200 yards passing per game. Part of that is due to great coverage on the deep shots down the field, like this one against the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, it's not just intermediate to deep passes. The Chargers defensive line is getting pressure and batting down some passes. This batted pass against the Oakland Raiders ended up being a nice interception as well.
The caveat with all of this is that the Chargers secondary in this game could be without it's two best players in Weddle and Verrett. That makes me feel like Osweiler will have an easier time finding an open receiver when he does throw the ball.
Still, the best matchup on the field is going to be C.J. Anderson against a Chargers run defense that has not played well at any point this season.
C.J. Anderson vs. Chargers Front Seven
The Chargers front seven has done slightly better against the run over the last four games giving up 4.05 yards per carry given they have given up 4.79 yards per carry over the entire season. However, with Te'o potentially out in this game, they could lose some ability to hold the line.
You may also wonder why I've left Ronnie Hillman out of this equation. The reason for this is that the Chargers defensive front has great speed to the outside and they excel at blowing up Hillman's bread and butter kind of runs as you can see from this stretch run against the Chiefs a few weeks ago.
It's tackling within the muck up the middle where this Chargers defense has true weakness. A guy like Anderson who is already difficult to arm tackle could be a nightmare for a defense that tackles like this.
We have seen Anderson break huge runs up the gut. The Chargers defense is so porous inside that I just don't see any game plan where the Broncos don't try to exploit that.
There will be some big opportunities for Anderson in this game if the Broncos offensive line can execute the game plan properly.
The Bottom Line
There are just too many holes in this Chargers defense in terms of both injuries and just flat out poor play for me to think the Broncos offense won't have tremendous success against this team.
Unless, of course, Gary Kubiak rolls with the same game plan he did against the Chargers a few weeks ago where Hillman got 19 carries for 2.9 yards per carry and Anderson received just 7 carries, yet with 6.0 yards per carry. The math here does not lie and Kubiak needs to get the ball into Anderson's hands now and in the playoffs.
If he does, the Broncos should win this game by a very wide margin. If he doesn't, then the Chargers could do what they did in the last game between these two and keep the game in doubt until the very end.