The Denver Broncos have played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL through the first five weeks of the season, and things don't get any easier on Monday night when they go on the road to play the San Diego Chargers.
There were lofty expectations placed on the Broncos thanks to the addition of Peyton Manning, but so far they have not taken off. As mentioned, the schedule has done them no favors. Their three losses have come to Atlanta, Houston and New England who have combined for a 14-4 record.
The Broncos are now entering what is the "easy" portion of their schedule. After the Chargers, they have a bye, then play New Orleans at home, go to Cincinnati and Carolina before another matchup with San Diego.
We are going to see the Broncos start to take control of their destiny in the AFC West now that they have made it past the brutal stretch of games with a respectable 2-3 mark.
Offensively, the Broncos continue to get better with each week. Manning played a terrible quarter of football against Atlanta in Week 2, but since then he has been virtually flawless. He has for 1,005 yards with thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three games.
The running game still isn't where it needs to be for this offense to be among the NFL's elite, but Willis McGahee has done a good job overall. If he can start to be more consistent, watch out.
On defense, there are still big problems up front. They struggle to stop the run, and that allows teams to control the clock against them. They have talent on the line, but most of them specialize in rushing the passer, which is a valuable skill but it can't be the only thing you do.
On the other side of the field, the Chargers continue to be an enigma, though they have at least figured out how to beat bad teams. Their three wins this season have come against Oakland, Tennessee and Kansas City.
They got blown out against Atlanta and gave up over 400 yards to New Orleans. Granted, the Saints can put up a lot of yards, but if the Chargers want to be taken seriously, they need someone to step up and make a play so they can win these games against quality competition.
Until the Chargers prove they can handle themselves against a good team, you can't very well predict them to beat one.
The Broncos are going to start getting hot, while the Chargers will fade back into obscurity in their second consecutive primetime appearance.
Broncos 31, Chargers 24