By Dave Thomas
As a pair of longtime AFC West rivals prepare to meet on Monday Night Football from San Diego, several storylines are set to play out.
* Can the Chargers continue their mastery over Peyton Manning, having beaten the future Hall-of-Famer in five of their last six encounters? Keep in mind that all those contests were when Manning suited up for the Colts;
* Will San Diego’s defense have success stopping Manning in a Broncos uniform, as number 18 has the fourth highest passer rating this season in the league, along with 11 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 yards in passing so far?
* Will San Diego have a hangover from last Sunday’s disappointing seven-point loss in New Orleans? In that game, the Chargers blew a 10-point lead, allowing the Saints to score 17 unanswered points;
* Lastly, can the home crowd prove beneficial for the Chargers? Remember that AFC West rivals Denver, Oakland, and Kansas City are usually well represented when playing in San Diego. If the game is tight down the stretch, some home cooking for the Chargers from their fans could spell the difference.
With San Diego (3-2) needing all of its weapons healthy for a big divisional rivalry, the Chargers’ injury report at week’s end was a bit disturbing on the offensive side of the ball, while injured corner back Shareece Wright is expected to be back.
Wright, who injured his foot in the season opener at Oakland, has not played since the 22-14 victory over the Raiders. Given that Manning will likely test San Diego’s secondary early and often, having another warm body in there that can make plays will be critical.
As most San Diego fans know, the Chargers’ secondary was once again picked on in New Orleans last weekend. While Eric Weddle typically lives up to his Pro Bowl status, both Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason have had some really good moments, along with some really bad moments.
On the offensive side of the ball, Philip Rivers will hope that he has a healthy Ryan Mathews (ankle) in the backfield, to go with a healthy Malcom Floyd (groin) and Eddie Royal (hamstring) at wide receiver. All three were dinged up over the last week, meaning both Jackie Battle and Antonio Gates could get more touches at running back and tight end, respectively. There are also some potential issues on the offensive line, as Jeromey Clary and Jared Gaither look to rebound from injuries.
Finally, the Bolts should feel added importance to this game, not only because they are going up against what looks to be their chief rival for division supremacy this season.
After this game, San Diego has a bye next weekend, then travels to Cleveland for an Oct. 28 contest.
Going into their bye week, the last thing the Chargers want is having to think about a loss to Denver and how it might have swung the division some six weeks into the season.
Nate Kaeding, K (groin)
Malcom Floyd, WR (groin)
Jared Gaither, OT (groin)
Eddie Royal, WR/KR (hamstring)
Jeromey Clary, T (foot)
Ryan Mathews, RB (ankle)
Shareece Wright, CB (foot)
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.