This is usually about the time the San Diego Chargers (4-5) go on a midseason run and climb atop the AFC West standings as the playoffs approach. Whether they make the postseason or not, it happens like clockwork every year.
However, this season, the Denver Broncos (6-3) added Peyton Manning to the helm of their offense and have pulled away with the division in the early running. The last time these two teams met in Week 6 the Chargers had the Broncos on the ropes but blew a 24-point halftime lead in San Diego.
If Manning and his offense can get a quicker start in Week 11, this game may be over well before the final whistle at Mile High.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
When: Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Live Stream: N/A
Betting Line: Broncos (-8), according to Bovada
San Diego Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/8/2012)
LB Antwan Barnes
S Atari Bigby
CB Chris Carr
T Jared Gaither
DE Corey Liuget
WR Robert Meachem
LB Shaun Phillips
WR Eddie Royal
LB Demorrio Williams
Denver Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/13/2012)
WR Eric Decker
DL Elvis Dumervil
TE Virgil Green
S Jim Leonhard
RB Willis McGahee
CB Tracy Porter
WR Brandon Stokley
WR Demaryius Thomas
What's At Stake?
For the San Diego Chargers this is a must-win game if they have any hopes of salvaging their season and making the playoffs. Another divisional loss to the Broncos would separate them both by record and give the tiebreaker to Denver should the Chargers go on an improbable late-season winning streak.
For the Broncos, they need to win in order to keep pace for home-field advantage purposes in the playoffs. A win this week would also pretty much assure them the AFC West crown barring a late-season collapse.
San Diego TE Antonio Gates
The last time these two teams met, Gates had his only multi-touchdown game of the season. He finished with six catches, 81 yards and two touchdowns. Most of that all came in that 24-point first half.
It wasn’t a fluke that Gates abused the Broncos in Week 6. The Broncos are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends and will likely be hurt by the veteran pass catcher again this week. Gates has scored in each of his past two games and has four TDs in the last four games after having none in the first five games.
Denver WR Eric Decker
The Chargers aren’t the best at stopping opposing wide receivers. That’s especially true when they have two to deal with like Decker and Demaryius Thomas. In Week 6 Decker has his second-most productive game of the season while Thomas was bottled up for much of the game.
I like Decker to again find favorable coverages due to the focus on Thomas’ ability to stretch the field. Decker is no slouch in that department too and has developed into one of Peyton Mannin'gs favorite targets—perhaps the favorite.
What They Are Saying
Bill Williamson of ESPN.com noted that an ESPN Insider piece labeled the AFC West as “all but over” already.
Norv Turner has been speculated to be on the proverbial hot seat this season after struggling through the first 10 weeks. Former Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer said he no desire to coach again should the job become available, according to Jarrett Bell of USA Today.
Tom Kensler of The Denver Post took a look at some of the Chargers’ recent struggles. Since Denver beat them in Week 6, the Chargers have dropped three of four and outgained the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 10 but still managed to lose.
On Sunday, Chargers outgained Tampa Bay in total yards by 426-279 and manufactured 23 first downs to the Bucs' 12 — and San Diego managed to lose the game.
Broncos Executive VP John Elway gave his thoughts on the unstoppable nature of Von Miller to Sam Davis of the official Denver Broncos blog.
I’m not sure one guy can block Von Miller,” Elway said. “I think it takes two guys because he is that athletically gifted and has such a great feel to get there. He is powerful and fast, and I’m just thrilled he’s on our team.
Key Matchup: Phillip Rivers at Sports Authority Field
Peyton Manning and the Broncos are going to score some points, that’s almost a certainty. The x-factor remains how the Chargers—and most importantly, Phillip Rivers—will bounce back from consecutive losses to the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Luckily the Chargers are in a favorable position for this very important Week 11 matchup. Rivers has a lifetime completion percentage of 68 percent and a QB rating of 102.5 while playing in Denver. Maybe it’s the altitude or maybe it’s something else, but Rivers likes to play in the Rockies.
Before his second-half meltdown in Week 6, Rivers was on course for an excellent game after leading his team to a 24-point lead at halftime. The second half was a different story. He was directly responsible for four turnovers and the game-sealing pick-six that ended the Chargers’ chances.
The Broncos and Chargers will likely air it out at Mile High. Denver is averaging 31 points per game in four contests and a 3-1 record to this point at home.
This week’s matchup means everything for both of these two teams. It’ll be the Broncos, though, not the Chargers who emerge with a big game in Week 11.
San Diego will keep it close as Phillip Rivers will throw his team into contention until the Broncos kick a game-winning field goal with less than one minute remaining.
Broncos 38, Chargers 35