The AFC battle begins for the Denver Broncos with the San Diego Chargers

Well it was an interesting bye week for the Denver Broncos (7-1), not to mention an interesting couple weeks for the NFL. The Broncos and I, are focusing on the game as usual. This week the team travels to Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers (4-4). This begins a tough AFC road for the Denver Broncos considering all but two games for the remainder of the season are AFC opponents.

The first factor that is going to play an obvious role in this game is the absence of head coach John Fox who has had an impromptu heart surgery and according to reports and Broncos coaches has been released from the hospital.

As expected, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will be taking over the head coaching duties. In a press conference Monday he said,“this is Coach Fox’s team. I’m merely the person that’s able to keep it running right now while he’s healing.”


Coach Jack Del Rio at practice this week (Photo Credit: Denver Broncos)

He has also said that he will not be running the team as coach John Fox would but will be his own man on the coaching decisions. However he has worked with Coach Fox for a long time and understands his philosophies and “there aren’t many that are very different [from my own].” On offense Del Rio will probably serve more as a consult to Peyton Manning, much like Fox’s provided.

Hopefully these recent events haven’t impacted the Broncos progress as they ideally have fixed a few mistakes and healed in these last couple weeks. At this point on defense, besides the players that are out for the year only Duke Ihenacho and Champ Bailey have not participated in practice this week. Ihenacho is questionable and Bailey is still recovering from his foot injury and is unlikely to play.

Specific to the game Sunday, San Diego has just gotten off a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Washington Redskins and Broncos fans may remember a similar moment when defeating the Chargers last year that began a 10 game winning steak for the season. That moment for all of us was probably when we all realized the true potential our team had with Manning when they came from a 24-0 halftime deficit to rally a 35-24 victory.

The main problem the Chargers seem to have is maintaining defensive control and keeping the pace when opposing offenses find a rhythm. The Chargers are ranked 25th in the league in the pass-rush and against Manning that can lead to devastating consequences.

The defensive advantage that the Broncos have over the Chargers is being able to limit the quarterback’s completions. That is something the Broncos are one of the best at (ninth in the league), limiting opponents to 58.5 percent of passes. Not to mention the fact that they are tied for the league lead in interceptions with 13. Being able to limit and intercept Philip Rivers who has the highest completion percentage in the league with 72.2 (1 percent more than Manning) is the key to this game defensively.

San Diego on the other hand has the second worst in the league at limiting the opposing quarterbacks, allowing quarterbacks to complete 68.2 percent of passes. Manning will be able to take full advantage of that.

Being that the Broncos have out-played Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys who have a strong passing game much like the Chargers, I would earlier in the season expect this game to have a similar result in a shootout.  However, because Denver has had a couple weeks to heal they should hopefully able to put even more pressure on Rivers and intercept as much as possible.

Denver Broncos 42 @ San Diego Chargers 24

  • DoubleD

    This is pretty much a must win for the Broncos isn’t it? What happens if Manning has a less-than-stellar performance and Rivers is hitting all his passes? Banged up offensive line, John Fox out, falling 2 full games behind the Chiefs, sounds to me like there’s a lot for the Broncos to worry about on Sunday. Just an observation.