Last week was a return to normal for the AFC West. The top half of the division showed that they are among the elite teams in the AFC in dominating fashion, while the bottom half of the division looked disappointing in one-sided losses. The Broncos and Chiefs absolutely dominated the Titans and Redskins respectively. The Chargers and Raiders were outclassed by the Bengals and Jets respectively.
This week features two big division matchups. The Raiders and Chiefs hook up on Sunday while the Chargers and Broncos meet in a Thursday Night showdown. While everyone expects an offensive showcase between these two, the first matchup ended in a relatively normal 28-20 Broncos victory.
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos (5:25 PM, PT, NFL Network)
Two of the league’s top passing offenses square off in Denver on Thursday Night as the Chargers face the Broncos. The first matchup between these two was lower scoring than anticipated, but there was still plenty of offense. Peyton Manning threw for four TDs, three of which went to DeMaryius Thomas while Philip Rivers threw for only 218 yards and one TD.
The key to the last game was the Bronco defense which held Rivers 80 yards below his season average and sacked him four times. None of the Chargers offensive weapons were effective in the first matchup and that will have to change this time around as they will likely have to score at least 30 points if they plan on upsetting the Broncos.
The Broncos will be without Wes Welker who suffered a concussion on Sunday, but that just means more targets for Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Eric Decker. The best way to disrupt the Broncos offense is by being physical with the receivers at the line of scrimmage and getting pressure, preferably up the middle, on Peyton Manning. Unfortunately, the Chargers corners lack the physicality to rough up the Broncos and are 29th in the league in sacks.
In all likelihood, the best chance for the Chargers to come out with the victory is for the offense to be clicking on all cylinders. That means Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, and Danny Woodhead have to be lights out on Thursday.
The Broncos defense has been playing better of late, and the Broncos in general, just seem unbeatable. A win here all but clinches the division for the Broncos so look for them to come out with a vengeance at home, and send a statement to the rest of the AFC with a strong victory over the outmatched Chargers.