The Denver Broncos, on paper, are better than the San Diego Chargers in pretty much every possible thing. The most recent encounter between the teams and Peyton Manning’s history against the bolts might hint that there’s more than just numbers to this game.
The Broncos finished the season with a 7-1 record, winning their home games by 20.4 points before losing 27-20 to San Diego on Dec. 12, holding the Broncos to their lowest point total this season. The Broncos struggled stopping Ryan Mathews, and simply couldn’t control the Chargers’ gameplan, which was similar to the one they used in Cincinnati, opening the postseason with a win over the Bengals – keep the ball and avoid making costly mistakes which means taking as few risks as possible by Philip Rivers.
The Broncos have been held under 30 points only three times this season: Two came against the Chargers, including the 28-20 win in San Diego. Besides trying to beat the Chargers and their gameplan, there are also the ghosts of last season: The Broncos had the home field advantage in the first playoff game against Baltimore, but gave up a game-tying 70-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation before falling 38-35 in double-overtime. It was exactly one year ago.
The Chargers have run for an average of 170.2 yards during the current five-game win streak and are 10-2 when rushing for more than 102, compared to 0-5 when they don’t. They ran for 196 yards against the Bengals, while Rivers completed 12 of 16 passes for a season-low 128 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers. Mathews did leave the game with an ankle injury that has bothered him all week, which means the Chargers might have to move away from their plan.
The main target for them is keeping Manning off the field for as long as possible. He might have a problem when facing players with Chargers uniforms, but he broke too many records this season to be taken lightly, if that’s even possible. The 5,477 passing yards and 55 touchdowns, and now Wes Welker is back to give Manning a full set of great receivers to throw to, something very different from what the Chargers faced against the Bengals.
Manning has lost 3 consecutive postseason games. Rivers has posted a 99.1 quarterback rating in going 6-2 all-time in Denver.
Prediction – If Ryan Mathews is ready to go, the Chargers will make this one very difficult for Denver. However, with or without, unless the Chargers are this destiny team as many feel they are, the Broncos should be good enough even without a special defense to win their first postseason game with Peyton Manning.