Tale Of The Tape: San Diego Chargers At Denver Broncos
- QuarterbackThe Chargers have a huge task on their plate as they prepare to face the AFC’s best and most explosive teams. If they are going to pick up a road win in Denver – or compete for 60 minutes – Philip Rivers has to be at his best and take advantage of the soft spots in the Denver secondary. He will find open receivers, but Rivers cannot make the mistake of forcing the ball into coverage.It’s been a very special season for Peyton Manning, and he has never been the kind of player who takes divisional games lightly. He will be prepared for the Chargers, and that means he will spread the ball around to his receivers in order to frustrate a very vulnerable San Diego pass defense. Manning’s ability to diagnose the best play should allow the Broncos to dictate the pace of this game.
- OffenseThe Chargers are not going to score with the Broncos and their only hope is changing the pace of this game. That means running back Ryan Mathews must have a big day running the ball so the Chargers can win the possession battle. Keenan Allen will be featured against the Broncos, and Rivers will also try to get the ball to former Denver star Eddie Royal so he can burn his old team on deep routes.Knowshon Moreno is not going to get recognized as one of the stars of this team, but neither Manning nor head coach John Fox cares about that. Moreno runs hard every time he gets the ball and he is good enough to take pressure off the passing game. Eric Decker is a game-changing player, and Demaryius Thomas can rip through the Chargers' defense. While the Broncos will miss Wes Welker, Jacob Tamme can fill his role well in the slot.
- DefenseThe Chargers have had problems on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season. While they were competitive early in the year, the defense took some hits when they gave up key drives late in early-season games. The Chargers lack strength at the point of attack and the secondary has been wide open. Free safety Eric Weddle is smart and effective, but the problems up front are debilitating.The Broncos give up a lot of yardage, but the defense often comes up with big plays that turns the game in their favor. Linebackers Danny Trevathan and Wesley Woodyard are both strong, physical players who are punishing tacklers. Defensive end Shaun Phillips has the athleticism to get around the corner and pressure the quarterback. Cornerback Chris Harris is much improved and a decent cover man.
- Special TeamsThe Chargers have been fairly pleased with their special teams play this year as Danny Woodhead and Royal give them two players who can flip field position with good returns. Nick Novak has proven to be a dependable placekicker while Mike Scifres is a decent directional punter.The Broncos turned a number of early-season games in their favor with their excellent special teams play because return specialist Trindon Holliday is so explosive. The Broncos’ coverage teams – especially on kickoffs – have been vulnerable. Matt Prater is a consistent placekicker.
The Chargers would have to play their best game to hang in with the Broncos for 60 minutes. That means showing they could absorb one or two big plays and not get overwhelmed. That doesn’t seem likely because their defense looks like fertile ground for the Denver attack. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor