The NFL Monday Night Football showcase this week is a battle against AFC West division rivals, Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers. This promises to be a up-tempo, no-huddle, in your face type matchup that should take everyone’s mind off the MLB Playoffs for at least one night.
These two familiar foes will square off at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego with the division lead hanging in the balance. When evaluating this game, it is prudent to point out the fact that the pressure is squarely on Peyton Manning and his new team to erase the mistakes that hindered them the past couple of games. The dropped passes, fumbles, and missed assignments have allowed opponents to build an insurmountable lead to this point for the Broncos, and there is only so many fourth quarter comebacks that Manning can command.
Looking at both teams, San Diego has been a solid 3-2 team that should be 4-1 save for an incredible loss to the then-winless New Orleans Saints last week. The Chargers have a top tier QB in Philip Rivers that has gotten his Chargers off to a good start in 2012. They also have a two-headed rushing attack that demands attention in Ryan Matthews and Jackie Battle. San Diego’s strength is their defense against the run, ranking fifth overall while only allowing 74 yards per game. The glaring weakness on this team, however, is that they are 20th overall against the pass, and that is one area as a team that can not afford to struggle on Monday.
If Quentin Jammer, Eric Weddle and Antoine Cason can not contain Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Brandon Stokley, then this might turn into an offensive explosion for Manning and his squad that is ranked 5th overall in the NFL. That’s right, Manning at 36 years old is leading one of the league’s best offenses yet again. Hello??? Naysayers beware, he is back. And if Demaryius Thomas learns how to switch the ball from hand to hand without fumbling, just imagine the stats he could have at this point.
Thomas enters Monday’s game with 30 receptions for a whopping 16.8 yards per catch and a total of 505 yards, but with only two TDs. Manning already has 1500 yards passing in the first five games to go with 11 tds and 3INTs. If it wasn’t for that one bad first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons, Manning would most likely have 13 or 14 TDs with no INTs. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. Regardless of the 2-3 record, this Broncos team as a whole is on the verge of becoming good really soon.
The Broncos glaring weakness remains their third down defense while being ranked 21st in the league against the run. This stat may be a little deceiving, though, as the Broncos defense seems to be going on the good game/bad game trend. Opposing runners have rushed for 75, 67, 152, 56 and 251 through the first five games. For some reason, the Broncos defense seems to get timid on third downs and will allow yards in bunches on the ground as we saw last week against the New England Patriots. This needs to stop, and Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio must make sure the right personnel is on the field and everyone knows their assignments.
Much can be said about the Broncos shut down corner work and I do not feel that Rivers will have much opportunity up top against Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and Mike Adams. If Matthews and Battle can find the gaps and exploit the Broncos linebackers, then the Chargers should be able to control the clock and be able to win this game at home. The Chargers have a better TE in Antonio Gates, a quality QB that can run short option reads and very able running backs.
Other than Gates, the Broncos match San Diego in almost every way with their receivers, QB, Willis McGahee running and defensive talent. This game here will set the tone for how the west is won. I look for the Broncos to pull away with a 38-31 victory as long as the mistakes are limited. Can somebody please get Thomas and McGahee some gorilla glue? Otherwise we might see Peyton Manning pulling the last bit of hair he has out of his head.
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