The San Diego Chargers have their work cut out for them (again) preparing for Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The Chargers have nothing to lose and having been playing like it for the last five weeks. Both teams know the stakes, though, the Broncos have a painful reminder of their last meeting. Here are three matchups to mull over the next 24 hours to game time.
– Running backs (Danny Woodhead/Ronnie Brown/Ryan Mathews?) vs Denver defense
Mathews is the key to winning on Sunday. There’s no question he will get some snaps, but it’s unlikely he will pass the century mark rushing the ball. Woodhead and Brown must shoulder the running game in order to keep the clock under Charger control. No Von Miller for the Broncos is crucial because Wesley Woodyard and the linebackers have to step up and stop the Chargers backs. Advantage leans toward the Broncos.
– San Diego pass rush vs Peyton Manning
Manning looked flustered in the December rematch, but looked godly in their first meeting in November. The key stat here is that the San Diego defense is the only team to hold Manning below 300 yards this season. Melvin Ingram is playing strong, Shareece Wright is stepping up in the secondary and, of course, the bearded Eric Weddle remains a constant in the defense. Advantage goes to Chargers.
– Peyton vs Peyton
The Broncos are favored by 10.5 points in the rematch, but there are a lot of ghosts that haunt Denver. Over the last eight years, the No. 1 seed has lost their playoff game. Manning is 0-2 all-time versus the Chargers in the postseason. Manning hates talking about his record in the cold. Add in the previous loss to the Chargers, and this matchup goes to San Diego.