By Dave Thomas
With faint AFC wild card playoff hopes still in front of them, the San Diego Chargers face an uphill battle this Thursday evening in the Mile High City, meeting the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos.
Losers to Denver at home in November, San Diego (6-7) must win out in its remaining three games and get some help along the way in order to snap its three-year playoff drought. With an impressive 37-14 victory at home this past Sunday over Eli Manning and the New York Giants, the Bolts remain in the wild care race, albeit a long shot to say the least.
Heading into the last three weeks of the season, San Diego trails both Baltimore and Miami (each 7-6) for the wild card spot, with the New York Jets hanging around at 6-7. An upset victory in Denver would go a long way in keeping San Diego around in the playoff conversation at least for another week.
Broncos Clicking on All Cylinders
It wasn’t too long ago when some folks may have doubted the Broncos, especially having had to play rival Kansas City twice in a three-week span. All the Broncos did was beat the Chiefs twice in that span, moving them steps closer to repeating as AFC West champs.
With a commanding 51-28 victory over Tennessee at home this past weekend, the Broncos officially clinched an AFC playoff spot, though the division is still up for grabs with the Chiefs. That said, Kansas City would have to win out and hope for a couple of Denver losses to claim the crown.
In their blowout win over the Titans in the Mile High City, the Broncos once again got big numbers from future Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning.
Manning threw for 397 yards and four touchdowns, yes, just another average day for the man who right now is the clear-cut MVP for the 2013 season.
If San Diego is to have any chance at leaving Denver with an upset win, it will have to at least keep Manning from putting up explosive numbers.
Manning has thrown for 4,522 yards and 45 touchdowns this season to date. His top go-to guys include Demaryius Thomas (1,149 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Eric Decker (1,088 yards, 8 TD’s) but he’s not afraid to mix it up, giving the ball to tight end Julius Thomas, throwing it in the flat to running back Knowshon Moreno, or even giving the backup TE Jacob Tamme a few looks.
On the ground, Denver has been led by a rejuvenated Knowshon Moreno (920 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns), while Wisconsin product Montee Ball has rushed for 456 yards and four scores.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Broncos are paced by former Charger Shaun Phillips (nine sacks) and Danny Trevathan (104 tackles).
In their first meeting on November 10 in Southern California, Denver rolled out to a 28-6 lead, then held off a late San Diego charge to post a 28-20 victory. Manning had a rather solid afternoon, throwing for 330 yards and four TDs.
Looking at the all-time series between the rivals, Denver holds a 58-48-1 advantage.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.