The Chargers (4-5) currently trail their AFC West rivals by two games. A loss would extend the lead essentially to four, as Denver would hold the tiebreaker advantage.
The two teams currently in wild-card position have six wins. It isn't unrealistic to expect both to reach the 10-win mark. That is the threshold for Norv Turner to keep his team playing.
Following are the particulars for this must-win game for San Diego.
When: Sunday, Nov. 18 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Lines (via Bovada)
Spread: Broncos -8
Denver has been playing great offense and solid defense since these teams last met. They'll also have the advantage of their home stadium and playing at altitude, a factor that does hinder some visitors.
This game definitely favors the Broncos, but the Chargers are capable of pulling the upset.
The over/under in this game is surprisingly low. These two teams scored 59 points the last time out, and it would have been much more if San Diego's offense would have joined the party in the second half.
This game will turn into an areal assault and if both sides can avoid turnovers they could threaten the over by halftime.
Injury Report as of 7 a.m. on Nov. 16
San Diego via CBSSports.com
Antwan Barnes, LB: Hamstring
Atari Bigby, S: Quadriceps
Chris Carr, CB: Quadriceps
Aubrayo Franklin, DT: Knee
Melvin Ingram, LB: Knee
Ryan Mathews, RB: Neck
Dante Rosario, TE: Hamstring
Eric Weddle, S: Knee, illness
Denver via CBSSports.com
Elvis Dumervil, DE: Day-to-Day, Shoulder
Jim Leonhard, S: Calf
Tracy Porter, CB: Doubtful, Illness
Kevin Vickerson, DT: Thigh
D.J. Williams, LB: Suspension (One-Week Roster Exemption)
Fantasy Big Plays
San Diego: QB, Philip Rivers
Rivers was off to a big start when these two teams met a month ago. He had two first-half touchdown passes and guided the Chargers to a 24-0 lead.
San Diego can move the ball on the Broncos so long as they can keep Rivers upright. The turnovers tend to follow pressuring Rivers.
Projected Stats: 24-of-42, 290 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
TE, Antonio Gates
Gates is a must-start this weekend as well. The Broncos struggle with covering tight ends, surrendering more points to the position than any other team.
Gates had two touchdowns when these two teams met in October and is a threat to do the same this week.
Projected Stats: 9 REC, 112 yards, 1 TD
Owners that have been storing Ryan Mathews, hoping he'll break out and become productive, are likely frustrated at this point. He had a very good week against New Orleans, but that game accounted for his only touchdown of the season.
Mathews is dealing with a neck injury and didn't practice on Thursday.
Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd are all viable options this week.
Denver: QB, Peyton Manning
Prior to last week's relatively easy win over the Carolina Panthers, Manning had thrown three touchdown passes in five straight weeks. He's thrown for at least 290 yards in seven straight games with just three interceptions over that period.
Fantasy owners that took the gamble and drafted Manning early are happy with the production. Those that waited and were able to take him in the middle rounds are ecstatic. He's an obvious must-start every week.
Projected Stats: 26-of-35, 322 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT
Willis McGahee is good for a spot-start or a flex option virtually every week. He was good for 10 points in the first matchup.
Demaryius Thomas is a must-start. He should be good for a 80 yards and a touchdown.
Manning has also shown a proclivity to throw to Eric Decker. Decker was virtually absent last week but had two touchdowns in both of the prior two games and one in each of the prior three.
Key to Victory
QB Play and Avoid Turnovers
The story in the first battle was the tale of two halves. San Diego was almost flawless in the first half but couldn't hold onto the ball in the second.
Rivers needs to stay within his game and play ball control. He has always played well in Denver, be it the altitude or his attitude. He is primed to have a big day in Denver.
The Chargers can't afford to give Denver extra chances to score.
NFL Network pregame analysis
This has been a challenging season for the San Diego Chargers. A 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns was the low point of a 1-4 stretch.
Denver, on the other hand, has looked almost unstoppable since its Week 5 loss to the New England Patriots. Manning and the Broncos offense are getting better by the week.
Final Score: Denver 38, San Diego 24
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and the Seattle Seahawks.
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