Monday Night Football sees a big divisional showdown between Denver and San Diego. While the AFC West continues to baffle and bewilder, a victory for either side tonight could go a long way to shining some light on the division’s future.
With Peyton Manning leading the helm this season, the Broncos (2-3, 0-2 road) have spluttered a few times this year, but offensively look much improved on last season. San Diego (3-2, 1-1 home) meanwhile lost a tough one last week in New Orleans but has generally impressed early on.
Picking a winner from this one is a tough ask.
High Profile QBs Doing Their Thing
The question leading into the season was whether or not Peyton Manning would be the Peyton Manning of old. So far, while the veteran QB has had a solid season, he’s not quite reached the standards of old. He might not be far off though.
In five games this year, Manning has completed 66 percent of his passes, amassing 1,499 yards and 11 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. That’s just shy of 300 yards per game, and a passer rating of 101.2 (fourth best in the league).
Philip Rivers – perhaps the most demonstrative quarterback you’re likely to see take the field – hasn’t posted numbers as good as Manning, but he’s hardly slouching. He’s thrown for 1,251 yards (250 per game) and eight touchdowns. His five picks are a blemish, but his pass completion rate of 67.9 percent is stellar.
Put the two together and you have the potential for a Southern California shootout, although the bright sunshine will be replaced by the even brighter lights of Qualcomm Stadium at night.
Offensively, Denver’s strength has come in the passing game. Averaging 287 yards per game, the Broncos are fifth in the league in passing. However, it should be taken into consideration that Manning has found himself in game situations which require him to throw the ball. Take last week’s game against New England for example. The Patriots tore up the ground rushing to a big lead, leaving Manning to try and execute an aerial come back.
Behind Rivers, San Diego’s passing attack is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Averaging 231 yards per game (19th), it’s hard to think of the Chargers as a premier aerial team, but on any given day, Rivers can accumulate yards.
Denver’s running game is averaging 101 yards (17th), while San Diego is averaging 103 yards (16th). Willis McGahee and Ryan Matthews could be called upon a lot on Monday night. Denver may be wary of running the ball though; San Diego currently has the fifth best rush defense in the league, giving up just 74 yards per game.
Conversely, Denver has given up 120 rushing yards per game (21st), but the Broncos’ passing defense has outshone San Diego’s. Denver is giving up 215 yards through the air (11th) compared to San Diego’s 260 (20th).
Put all of this together and you have two defenses that are virtually inseparable. Denver is conceding 335 yards, San Diego 334.
Looking for an Edge
This classic AFC West rivalry dates back to 1960 when the Chargers could be found in Los Angeles and the Broncos played in Bears Stadium (later to be renamed Mile High Stadium). In the 52 years that have passed since that first game, the two rivals have kept things close. Denver holds a slight lead in the all-time head-to-head, which stands at 55-48-1.
Denver won last time around (last November at Qualcomm Stadium) by a field goal, a win that snapped a four-game losing streak against the Chargers.
San Diego has had bragging rights over recent years, going 9-3 over the last 12, a period that coincides with Philip Rivers’ starting for the Bolts.
San Diego enters the game as favorites, just. The spread opened at three-points but has subsequently dropped to one-point ahead of kickoff.
If you’re looking at the spread, San Diego is 3-2 ATS this season while Denver is 2-3 ATS. The Broncos are actually 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 games, and 1-4 ATS in the last five road games.
Those considering the over/under, which stands at 48 on Monday night, the total has gone OVER in four of the last six Charger games, but UNDER in 11 of 14 at Qualcomm. The total has gone OVER on five of the last seven Broncos games outright.
Finally, need a little extra info to make your decision? Here’s one last tidbit. The two sides have met four times on Monday Night Football (1979, 2007, 2009, 2010). San Diego has won three of those games, with the average score across the series 28-14 in the Chargers’ favor.