The 2-2 San Diego Chargers have struggled on both sides of the ball this season, while the 5-0 Denver Broncos have been surprisingly efficient. There's no question that Denver has played better football over the first five weeks of the season, but as they say, "any thing can happen on any given Sunday" or in this case, "Monday night" and the San Diego Chargers should not be taken lightly in this match up.
Denver is ranked 15th in the league in passing YPG. QB Kyle Orton has played solid football. Orton has thrown for 1,236 yards, 7 TDs, 1 INT, while averaging 247 YPG in the Broncos first five games.
San Diego's defense has been less than stellar this season against the pass, ranking 12th in the league. One of the reasons for that, is their lack of pass rush. The Chargers defense has recorded a mere six sacks in their first four games.
If the Chargers are going to win this game they must get pressure on Orton. Putting pressure on the QB will not only get sacks for a loss of yards, but will force errant throws which could lead to interceptions. If the defense allows Orton too much time in the pocket, San Diego's offense could find themselves playing catch up, a lot like the week 4 match up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chargers have to play hard hitting, smash-mouth football on defense and must get to the QB.
Running the ball has been Denvers strong suit this season. The Broncos are ranked 5th in the league in rushing YPG, accumulating a total of 695 yards on the ground in their first five games.
San Diego is currently ranked 27th against the run. Jamal Williams, who went down with a season ending tricep injury, has been sorely missed on the Chargers' defensive line. Stopping the run will be key to San Diego's success. If they can force more passing situations, they will have a better chance of winning this game.
Defense is not the only area where the Chargers have struggled this season. The Chargers' offense is ranked dead last in rushing YPG, racking up a measly 215 rushing yards in their first four games of the season. The injuries along San Diego's offensive line and to RB LaDainian Tomlinson, early in the year, have undoubtedly factored into the Chargers' struggles to move the ball on the ground.
LaDainian Tomlinson will play on Monday night. If San Diegos Offensive Line can hold up, and play at a high level, LT will be able to establish a decent rushing attack. If that happens the Chargers will have a serious shot at managing this game and pulling out the W.
QB Phillip Rivers' ability to go up top for big yardage has been the strength of San Diego's offense this season. The Chargers are ranked 2nd in the league in passing YPG. Rivers has thrown for 1,245 yards in San Diego's first four games and he is averaging 311 passing YPG.
The Denver Bronco's defense is ranked 2nd in the league in total YPG allowed. They've only allowed an average of 252 total YPG, 171 passing YPG (5th in the league), and 76.4 rushing YPG (6th in the league.) The Bronco's defense is playing very well on all levels.
While I don't believe Denver's defense will hold Rivers to 171 passing yards on Monday night, I do anticipate to see a lot of pressure from Denver's front seven. This goes back to San Diego's offensive line needing to play at a high level and not get pushed around in order to allow Rivers to make plays downfield.
It's imperative for San Diego to play well up front on both sides of the ball if they want to win this game, but they must step it up on defense especially. If both defenses play at the same level they've played in the first quarter of the season, this could be a very long night for the Chargers. However, The Chargers are coming off of their bye week, which means Ron Rivera has had an extra week to get his defense prepared for this game. If they can play to their full potential, get to the QB, and make plays in Denvers backfield, this could turn out to be a great game and a victory for the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers must win this game.