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Chargers vs. Broncos: Key Stats That Will Determine Divisional Playoff Game

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 12:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos is hit by defensive end Corey Liuget #94 of the San Diego Chargers as he throws a pass during a game at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on December 12, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJanuary 7, 2014

The San Diego Chargers went into Cincinnati and knocked off one of the two undefeated home teams in the NFL in 2013. After beating the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10 on Sunday, the Chargers are now tasked with winning another tough road game.

This time, the Chargers must beat the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field. The Bolts' confidence has to be high, considering their win over the Bengals and the fact that they beat the Broncos 27-20 in the Mile High City in Week 15.

Denver did win the first meeting 28-20 in San Diego in Week 10, but the Chargers' win is obviously the freshest in our minds.

Can the Chargers do it again? Here are the key statistical categories for the rubber match.

 

Red-Zone Efficiency

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 05:  Defensive back Chris Crocker #32 and outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals sack quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers in the first quarter during a Wild Card Playoff game at Paul B
Rob Carr/Getty Images

In both regular-season meetings, the Chargers were 2-of-4 in red-zone efficiency. Settling for field goals half the time is risky—especially when playing against a high-powered offense like the Broncos. In the second meeting, the Broncos were unpredictably inefficient in key situations, so the Chargers weren't made to pay for not capitalizing on their opportunities.

Philip Rivers and Co. can't bank on that happening again in this one. Rivers said this of the team's red-zone issues after the loss to the Broncos, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com:

“That was really the difference there," Rivers said. "If we could have scored a couple of times in those early drives, we would have been right there in better shape late in the game.” 

 

Third-Down Efficiency

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 29:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos in action against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on December 29, 2013 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Those "key situations" I eluded to above are also known as third downs. In the Broncos' win, they converted three out of eight third downs. In the loss, Denver converted just two of their nine attempts.

Denver had the highest-scoring team in NFL history, but the Chargers outgained them in both regular-season meetings. 

Tom Pedulla of the New York Times and Associated Press said this after the Chargers beat the Broncos in Week 15:

Disorganized on defense and never able to crank things up on offense, the Broncos gained 13 yards on the 13 plays they ran after taking a 10-3 lead late in the first quarter. That covered four fruitless drives during which they went three-and-out three times and picked up a total of one first down.

The Chargers are going to pound the ball with the run game, so they'll have the ball more than the Broncos. This dynamic makes it all the more important for Peyton Manning and the Denver offense to extend drives.

 

Time of Possession

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 8:  Ryan Matthews #24 of the San Diego Chargers runs the ball against the New York Giants during their game on December 8, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

The Chargers have dominated time of possession by a total of 33:44. Because of the two teams' style of play, you can bet San Diego will hold the ball longer again in the divisional round. 

The margin of victory in this category will determine how much pressure will be on Denver—on both sides of the ball.

If the Chargers hold the ball for an extended period again, the Broncos will have a slimmer margin for error. Likewise, the Broncos defense will be worn out if they can't get the Chargers offense off the field.

 

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