Featuring two AFC West divisional foes coming off of difficult road losses, the Week 6 edition of Monday Night Football is bound to be one of the year's best when the Denver Broncos meet the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium.
Philip Rivers serves as Manning's counterpart, and while it looked as though his Chargers were reversing the trend of their typical early-season blues, two losses in the past three contests indicate otherwise.
Suddenly the two teams are separated by just one game in the division, with the Broncos looking to pull even at 3-3.
Current Betting Line (Courtesy of OddsShark.com)
Spread: San Diego (-1)
Moneyline: Denver (-110), San Diego (-110)
What's at Stake
The victor not only gets an early leg up in the AFC West division—both teams enter a bye in Week 7. Until they meet again on November 18, the Broncos and Chargers won't play more difficult opponents than each other, based on the current NFL standings.
Few teams give Peyton Manning more difficulty than the Bolts, so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts with a totally new offense. For Philip Rivers to beat Manning on this big stage, it would give him an invaluable boost.
A massive amount of momentum will be generated for whoever wins this game, especially since it's possible neither team will lose until they meet again next month.
Injury News (via ESPN)
Denver Broncos: Tony Carter, CB (undisclosed) Questionable
San Diego Chargers: Nate Kaeding, K (groin) Questionable, Eddie Royal, WR (hamstring) Questionable, Malcom Floyd, WR (groin) Questionable.
Key Matchup: Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil versus the San Diego offensive line
The Bolts' bigs struggled to keep Rivers upright on Sunday night in New Orleans, allowing five sacks. Left tackle Jared Gaither yielded the decisive strip-sack on the final drive.
Denver has really struggled to generate turnovers in 2012, forcing just four takeaways in five games.
If Miller and Dumervil—who have five and three sacks on the season, respectively—can get pressure, it could be a long night at home for Rivers and Co. With two of San Diego's top receiving targets nursing injuries, the Broncos' dynamic pass-rushing duo may be able to pin their ears back even more than usual.
11th Hour Fantasy Advice
Typically Manning struggles with the Chargers' schemes. Ron Rivera isn't the defensive coordinator anymore, but that didn't stop Manning from struggling to four interceptions in his last outing against the Bolts in 2010. Manning has been a pretty reliable fantasy quarterback in 2012, and the San Diego secondary is much more vulnerable than its stout rush defense. This is a big regular season game, where Manning thrives most. He's definitely worth a fantasy start.
Coming off of a forgettable performance that featured a key fourth-down dropped pass and a crucial lost fumble, McGahee will be looking to get after it in San Diego. The problem is, the Bolts only allow 74 yards per game on the ground and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher. McGahee is a solid option most weeks, but Week 6 is a stay-away.
An improved Broncos secondary should provide a stiff challenge to Norv Turner's vertical passing game. After a relatively quiet beginning to his stint in San Diego, Meachem broke out for two touchdowns in Week 5 facing his former team. With fellow receivers Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal listed as questionable for Monday, Meachem will almost certainly see an increase in targets. That makes him a borderline No. 2 option, with definite No. 3/flex value.
The third-year running back's production has steadily improved over the past three games, so he is due for his best game in 2012 against a Denver defense that has struggled to contain running games featured in balanced offenses. Rivers will be able to keep the defense honest.
It's a quarterback-driven league, and this will be a quarterback-driven game. Manning's teams tend to play with a better sense of urgency early in the season. The Broncos will overcome a perceptibly sluggish start to the Manning era, and steal a win on the road to take a slight AFC West lead.
It's just hard to fathom Manning—and his 11-4 career MNF record—coming off of a loss to New England and not excelling on one of his favorite stages.
Final score: Broncos 31, Chargers 28