Broncos vs. Chargers: 10 Reasons Denver Will Win
When the Denver Broncos face off against the San Diego Chargers this Sunday, it will be a matchup of two teams headed in completely opposite directions. The Broncos are rolling, thanks in large part to their much-publicized, miracle-wielding quarterback Tim Tebow, and a defense that is resurgent under first-year head coach John Fox. After losing four of their first five games, the Broncos have gone 4-1 since making the switch to Tebow, and sit one game out of first place behind the Oakland Raiders, a team they beat during that stretch.
Meanwhile, San Diego is reeling. Notoriously slow out of the gate, San Diego has historically found ways to right the ship and still make the playoffs, but this year appears to be very different. Losers of five straight, highly touted quarterback Philip Rivers leads the NFL in interceptions, and has had difficulty connecting with his receiving corps on a consistent basis. Throw in a defense that has been transparent at best, and the Chargers are mired at the bottom of a relatively weak AFC West.
To say the stakes are high in this contest is an understatement. Despite their poor start, the Broncos are eying first place, and regardless of their current funk, the Chargers believe they can still get back in it. However, the following slides provide 10 reasons why the Denver Broncos will ultimately prevail in this road matchup.
No. 10: Denver's Special Teams
The special-teams battle goes to the Broncos in this one. Although not quite as disastrous as in recent years, the San Diego special teams unit is still far from good.
On the other hand, Denver's special teams unit has been firing on all cylinders lately. Getting electric performances from wideouts-turned-return-men Eric Decker and Eddie Royal, the duo is capable of breaking the game wide open. Couple that with punter Britton Colquitt's ability to pin the opposition deep in their own territory, and the Broncos are able to control the field-position game.
The special-teams advantage certainly favors Denver in this game, and it could be enough to turn the tables.
No. 9: San Diego's Poor Defense
The San Diego defense has been sucking wind lately. In the middle of the pack in overall defense, they are 28th in the league in points allowed, averaging over 25 per game. Additionally, they are particularly susceptible to the run, where they rank in the bottom fourth of the NFL.
As well as being weak against the run, the Chargers have also been unable to pressure the quarterback. With their best player Shawn Phillips missing significant time, and his status still in question for this Sunday's matchup, things do not bode well for this unit.
These factors play right into the Denver offense, whose newfound reliance on the power run game is perfectly suited to exploit the Chargers defense.
No. 8: The Spread Option
Call it what you will, whether fraudulent, a gimmick, an embarrassment—the fact remains that Denver's spread option is difficult to game-plan for. Even led by Rex Ryan, notorious for diagnosing a plan to stop the option, the New York Jets were stymied when Tebow and the Broncos offense went to the spread.
Since Tebow has taken over at quarterback and the Broncos adjusted their play-calling to accommodate his strengths, the Denver offense has continued to build on its option attack, adding a new wrinkle every week.
It may not be how business is typically done in the NFL, but nothing about Tim Tebow is typical. To this point, the Broncos have ridden the spread option to a 4-1 record with Tebow at the helm, and should find continued success against an already-ailing Chargers defense.
No. 7: The Broncos Running Attack
The Broncos rushing attack has been revitalized since Tebow has assumed the reins. Perhaps because defenses must account for a rushing quarterback, too, it has opened up the lanes for the other Broncos backs to take full advantage.
In games that Tebow has started, the Broncos are averaging over 200 rushing yards per game. Even with injuries to Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee (now returned to the lineup), the Broncos rushing attack has marched on. Third-stringer Lance Ball stepped up to rush for 90 yards against the Chiefs, and even practice-squad call-up Jeremiah Johnson is getting in on the act.
Led by their quarterback, the Broncos have been running wild and everyone wants in on the act. This coming Sunday, the San Diego defense will be hard pressed to bottle them up.
No. 6: The Turnover Ratio
Along with the improved play of the defense and the leadership at quarterback, also contributing to the Broncos' recent success has been getting on the right side of the turnover ratio. In the Broncos' four most recent victories, the Broncos are plus-four in the turnover ratio.
In the one game they have lost since Tebow took over, a 45-10 trouncing by Detroit, the Broncos were minus-three in the turnover ratio, and it cost them dearly. Two of the three turnovers were returned for touchdowns.
If the Broncos can continue to win the turnover battle, as they have done in recent weeks, they will be primed for victory against the Chargers—especially against Philip Rivers, who leads the NFL in interceptions (17).
No. 5: Philip Rivers Is in a Funk
Up until this season, Philip Rivers was considered by many to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. However, this season he has taken several steps backwards. He currently leads the NFL in interceptions, and has thrown more of them (17) than he has touchdown passes (15).
Furthermore, while there have been instances where he has connected with top wideout Vincent Jackson, for most of the season he has been out of sync with much of his receiving corps. His frustrations have been readily apparent as he is often seen yelling at teammates, coordinators, coaches and officials. He has been pouty, aggravated and flustered and he has certainly let it get the best of him.
Pair Rivers' regression with a resurgent Denver defense, and the Chargers have a recipe for disaster on their hands.
No. 4: The Revitalized Denver Defense
The Broncos entered the season as one of the lowest-rated defensive units in the league. Since that time, under the tutelage of head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, the Denver defense has made vast improvements.
Rookie linebacker Von Miller has been better than advertised, currently fifth in the NFL with 9.5 sacks. Now that Elvis Dumervil has returned from an early season injury, the two have been wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Perhaps most astounding, the Broncos have recently been very adept at stopping the run, which has been their Achilles heel for several years. In the past five games, Denver's opponents have averaged just 104 yard rushing per game—vast improvement over seasons past.
While some may anticipate that this unit will "come back to earth," perhaps the opposite is true—the more time they spend together and continue to gel with each other, the better and better they will become.
No. 3: Winning Is Contagious
Winning is contagious, and now that the Broncos have tasted a continued string of success, everyone wants in on the action. During postgame interviews there is a different look in players' eyes, a spark that wasn't there before.
While the Broncos have been easy to write off as winning games against weak division opponents, the victory over the Jets last Thursday on the national spotlight was a huge statement. After the game, cornerback Andre Goodman said:
"It was a great win against a great team—a playoff team that's been to the AFC Championship two years in a row. It's probably one of the biggest wins I've ever been a part of."
The fact that the Broncos have tasted victory has them hungry for more, and they are well aware that every game has enormous meaning from here on out.
No. 2: Tim Tebow
It's difficult to find something more to say about Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. He has been scrutinized so heavily on a national level, and still every day it seems that new criticisms are levied against him regarding his style of play, his skill set at the quarterback position and even his own personal life.
While the national media has tried to trump up angles of dissension from the Broncos' front office regarding Tebow, perhaps what is more crucial to the Broncos' success is how Tebow's own teammates feel about him. Von Miller summed it up nicely after the Jets victory:
"I've said it before, 'I trust him.' I trust him with everything. No matter how many interceptions he throws or how many touchdowns he scores, that's Tim Tebow. I'm going to ride with him to the end."
The fact that a quarterback can provide that kind of inspiration to permeate through an entire team in so short a time period is incredible. Take issue with his throwing mechanics if you must, but it may be time to realize that the intangibles Tim Tebow brings to the table (which have never been disputed) are in fact far more valuable than people initially thought.
No. 1: The Power of Belief
It may sound hokey, but thanks largely to Tim Tebow, the Denver Broncos have bought into the power of belief. Certainly, Tebow talks about it all the time. He is often quoted as saying things like, "those guys believed in me," or "we all believed in each other," or "I'm really proud of everyone, we never stopped believing."
It may be venturing into a somewhat metaphysical level, but if enough people united in one common effort all steadfastly maintain the same belief, who's to say what can stop them? Veteran safety Brian Dawkins summed it up by saying:
"It's just something that doesn't happen all the time. I spoke with Tim before the (Jets) game—and believing in some things that have a higher purpose—there are some things happening here that just don't happen all the time."
While he still has a long way to go to win over the national media, Tim Tebow has made believers out of his teammates in Denver. One thing is sure: They believe that they have the chance to win and that may be the element that turns the tide in the Broncos' favor this Sunday.