With the way the AFC is shaping up, this Week 6 matchup between the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers is extremely pivotal—as most divisional clashes typically are.
These teams look to be the best clubs in an otherwise disastrous AFC West, and the Chargers would make a huge statement and take a full two-game lead in the division with the victory.
With two amazing quarterbacks battling it out tonight, we should be in for a wildly entertaining affair in San Diego.
Let's check out the five matchups that'll decide the Monday Night Football showdown.
Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither is doubtful for tonight's tilt with the Broncos, and if he can't go, undrafted free agent Mike Harris will be responsible for Philip Rivers' blind side against an underrated but certainly capable edge-rusher in Elvis Dumervil.
The Louisville alum has three sacks on the season and uses his smaller stature to gain leverage and dip around bigger offensive tackles.
Don't be shocked if Von Miller and Dumervil are moved on occasion as well.
As a team, the Chargers have allowed 14 sacks on the year, which isn't atrocious but is far from impressive.
San Diego's offensive line will certainly be tested again this evening, and if Rivers is to have a huge game throwing the football, Harris will have to be sound at the left tackle spot.
With Tracy Porter out for the game against the Chargers, brilliant veteran cornerback Champ Bailey will have to pick up the slack in the secondary against Rivers' vertical passing game.
He'll likely draw San Diego's No. 1 receiver Malcom Floyd, a big-play target who's averaging a shade under 18 yards per catch this season, which is right at his career average.
The 6'5" wideout leads the team with 33 targets—eight more than tight end Antonio Gates.
Though Bailey isn't nearly as explosive of an athlete as he used to be, he's amazingly efficient because he's rarely caught out of position due to a keen understanding of coverages and what opposing receivers try to do to get open.
A huge battle tonight on the outside.
Peyton Manning is averaging an even 300 passing yards per game this season.
Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas have gotten off to scintillating starts as well with a combined 58 receptions, 848 yards and four touchdowns through five games.
Thomas is the clear big-play target, and his 16.8 yards per catch average shows that.
Decker is the steady chain-mover Manning loves.
Thus far, the Chargers secondary has done a respectable job against opposing aerial attacks. They have allowed a respectable 89.3 QB rating.
Both Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer are good corners but certainly can be victimized by the better quarterback-receiver combinations in the league.
If they can keep Thomas under wraps and limit the number of first downs Decker accounts for, San Diego will be in business.
Ryan Mathews has slowly been reacclimated to the Chargers offense over the three last weeks in his recovery from a broken clavicle, and he hasn't disappointed.
In a Week 5 loss to the New Orleans Saints on the road, the former first-round pick had 80 rushing yards and scored a touchdown on 12 carries and caught six passes for 59 yards.
Though Jackie Battle will probably take some carries away from the tremendously talented runner from Fresno State, expect Mathews to be the definitive feature back tonight against the Broncos.
Denver has been relatively stout against the run this year, surrendering a rather stingy 3.8 yards per carry through five games.
However, teams haven't been afraid to run against the Broncos.
They've faced an average of nearly 32 rushes a game, which is the third-highest of any team in the league.
If the Broncos' defensive line and linebacking corps can corral Mathews this evening, they should be able to get off the field with decent regularity. If not, the Chargers offense will have a huge night.