Since his terrible three-interception performance, Peyton Manning has been everything the Denver Broncos have expected from him, completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 1,013 yards, eight touchdowns and no picks over his last three games, but losing two of them.
For the San Diego Chargers, they have no complaints about their quarterback, Philp Rivers, who seems to have put his 2011 troubles behind him, completing 67.9% of his passes for 1251 yards, eight touchdowns and five picks. Not perfect, but he’s a big reason as to why the inconsistent Chargers (on both sides of the ball) are 3-2 and not the other way around.
The Broncos had a huge problem last week against the New England Patriots, unable to stop the Pats on third down, as their defense spent over 35 minutes on the field. The Chargers aren’t that much of a running team, averaging 103 yards per game on the ground (17th in the NFL), but Norv Turner might try and execute more plays by using the very talented and explosive Ryan Matthews, who can do it in both the passing and the running game.
The Broncos don’t need to worry so much about Rivers’ deep game. Without Vincent Jackson, his yards per attempt average has dropped to 6.7, 31st in the NFL, as the Chargers have completely changed their offensive identity. More short passes, more dumping the ball to the running backs and this week probably a bit more work on the edges with Malcolm Floyd (358 yards, 20 receptions, 1 TD) and Robert Meacham, opening up the middle for Antonio Gates.
Another interesting battle will be the Broncos’ tackling quality trying to stop the Chargers rather physical offense, having gained the most yards after first contact behind the line of scrimmage this season. The Broncos have allowed the fewest yards after first contact behind the line of scrimmage since 2011.
The Broncos’ offense is that different from the Chargers. It’s not that Peyton Manning doesn’t have a deep threat to throw to; he just can’t hit the distance anymore. When he does, it’s usually when the Broncos are already trailing. The velocity and power in his arm are fading, but he still reads the game better than most, and is really disciplined in his pass selection since the awful showing against the Falcons, who also made Rivers look really bad.
The Broncos will get their points, especially against a team that struggles against the pass (allowing 260 yards per game this season). They key will be getting stops at third down and disrupting Philip Rivers, but for Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil to provide more than just pass rush, but actually some coverage when needed. Rivers has a big offensive line to block for him, so getting at him shouldn’t always be the top priority.
Prediction – The Broncos have a good quarterback, but not enough to cover for a mediocre defense and running game. The Chargers offense should do just about enough, with Philip Rivers headed for a big game, to come away with the win at home.