Broncos Looking To Pull Plug on Chargers

Sunday, the Denver Broncos have a chance at history, when one considers how successful the Broncos have been since 1977, it’s hard to fathom that there is something in AFC West spheres that they have never done.

Nevertheless, the Broncos have a chance to win their fourth consecutive AFC West title if they are able to go into Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego Sunday and prevail over the 8-5 Chargers who would be in the playoffs as presently constituted should the postseason begin today.

As confirmed by the Broncos’ official press release for this Sunday’s game, if the Broncos obtain their fourth consecutive divisional title, they would join the storied Oakland Raiders of the 70’s (1972-76) and the Chargers (2006-09) in recent history as the only teams to claim that distinction.

San Diego is truly a fascinating team as per the NFL’s official statistics they are symmetrical in terms of their numbers both offensively and defensively.

For instance, the Chargers’ offense is #14 in scoring offense (22.5) and #12 in scoring defense (20.9) so they play lots of close games and are blessed by the proficiency of Nick Novak who is second in the NFL at kicking percentage at  95.2 percent, making 20 of his 21 field goal on the season.

Additionally, they are above .500 because, as was shown in their 27-24 win against the St. Louis Rams November 23, they have a high penchant for pulling out late victories when their defense is on the goal line. Thus, there is no question that this team is dangerous, but their offensive line is a shambles and signal-caller Philip Rivers was perpetually running for his life Sunday against New England.

However, for all the magnificent things the Chargers have done in pulling out victories with timely turnovers and proficient special teams, they are meeting a team that realizes home field advantage could be theirs by the time Sunday Night Football starts if they win and the Patriots stumble against the Miami Dolphins.

As for Rivers, he is actually having a solid season by anyone’s standards as he seems to be acclimating himself to head coach Mike McCoy’s offense, as they are currently in their second season together.

Rivers has completed 68.3 percent of his passes, the third-best mark in the NFL this season, for 3,407 yards, 26 TD’s and 11 INT’s. Incidentally his 3,407 yards are #10 in the NFL, and with a +15 TD/INT ratio,  generally he makes wise decisions.

Rivers has done his best Peyton Manning impression by spreading the wealth around this season with prodigious and burgeoning star Keenan Allen (74 rec, 765 yards, 4 TD’s), as well as Malcom Floyd (42 rec, 743 yards, 5 TD’s). I must admit that I have great admiration for Floyd as in a 2013 game at Philadelphia, he took a wicked shot from Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans which severely injured his neck.

Oddly enough, former Broncos receiver Eddie Royal is having something of a renaissance as he has only 45 receptions in 2014, but 6 have gone for touchdowns, so nearly 1 in every 7 receptions he makes go for scores. To me, that is highly proficient, while tight end Antonio Gates (52 rec, 608 yards, 9 TD’s) perpetually remains a force, especially in the red zone.

The Chargers are not effective at running the ball, only 84.7 yards per game, which is 28th in the NFL and much of this has to do with featured tailback Ryan Mathews (330 yards) suffering from a litany of injuries throughout the season. Oddly enough, his understudy, rookie Branden Oliver (432 yards) has been the Chargers’ leading rusher this season.

This is particularly not effective against the NFL’s second-ranked rushed defense, as the Broncos only give up 72.8 yards per game on the ground so in all likelihood, if San Diego is to win this game, it’s Rivers or bust.

Now, this is where the Broncos have the decisive advantage although, as recently as November 16, this argument could not be legitimately made. After the Broncos were dismantled, 22-7 by the St. Louis Rams, various commentators on Broncos broadcasts have noted how much more effectively the Broncos have run the ball.

In their current 3-game winning streak, the Broncos are running for 182.7 yards per game, a significant upgrade over their 111.3 rushing yards per game on the season so with tight end Julius Thomas hobbled, the other tight end Virgil Green, along with tackle Paul Cornick, have been knocking some heads around and opening holes.

Additionally, tailbacks C.J. Anderson (393 of his team-leading 594 yards have come on this 3-game winning streak) and Juwan Thompson (4 car, 63 yards against the Bills, an average of 15.7 yards per rush) have done great work when given the opportunity and with San Diego giving up almost 109 yards per game on the season, they should feast once again.

Now, those who have been critical of Manning, in all honesty, need to check themselves, even though his consecutive passing touchdowns game streak was snapped at 51, he generally made wise decisions against the Bills even though his numbers were not sexy.

Overall, Manning has completed 66.9 percent of his passes (fourth-best in the NFL) for 3,910 yards (4th in the NFL), 36 TD’s (tied for #1 in the NFL with Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck) and 11 INT’s, so he is +10 in touchdowns over Rivers who has no running game whatsoever.

Of course, he gets lots of help from his receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders as always as Thomas is #3 in receptions (90), #4 in receiving yards (1,266) and #4 in receiving yards per game (97.4) while Sanders is tied for #4 in receptions with Chicago tailback Matt Forte (86), #6 in receiving yards (1,208) and #6 in receiving yards (92.9).

Furthermore, kicker Connor Barth is 6 of 6 on the season on his field goals, including a 50-yarder against Buffalo, which would have been good from at least 52 yards out. Defensively, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware both remain in the Top 10 in sacks and have combined for 23 sacks, while defensive tackle Malik Jackson has added three more sacks for good measure.

The Broncos are also the only NFL team to rank in the Top 10 in both total offense (405.6 yards per game, fourth in the NFL) and total defense (311 yards per game, also fourth in the NFL) and outgain opponents by 94.6 yards per game, while outscoring them by more than a touchdown at 7.1 points per game.

This symmetry has served Manning well, while if Julius Thomas becomes healthy soon, and if linebacker Danny Trevathan is able to return to the lineup, a great chance exists for the Broncos to tap their full potential.

It’s fascinating to consider that perhaps the Broncos have only scratched the surface of what they’re really capable of and are still 10-3 and in line for a 1st round bye in the postseason if the playoffs started today.

In closing, the greatest Denver Broncos figure of the present time, perhaps in all of franchise history, owner Mr. Pat Bowlen, can win his 300th game as an owner Sunday if Denver seals the deal so we’ll see what happens. In any case, you can watch this game on your local CBS affiliate in the late afternoon window, check local listings.