By Dave Thomas
The San Diego Chargers have likely circled this date on their calendar for sometime now. Come late Thursday night, the Chargers will know whether they have a reason to play the final two weeks or just go through the motions.
Heading into Denver Thursday evening, the Chargers are on the cusp of missing the AFC playoffs for the fourth straight season. Sitting a full game behind both Baltimore and Miami at 6-7, the Bolts need to win out and get some help along the way if they are to be playing come January.
Meantime, the rival Broncos are looking to run the table in their final three games of the season (San Diego, at Houston, at Oakland) and secure home field throughout the AFC playoffs. As it stands now, Denver (11-2) sits a game ahead of New England (10-3) for the top spot in the AFC.
Chargers Need to Repeat Giant Effort
Coming off of what could arguably be their best performance of the season (37-14 win over the New York Giants last Sunday), the Chargers will look to not stop, but at least control Denver’s Peyton Manning in the Mile High City.
To date, the likely MVP of the league has thrown for more than 4,000 yards and a staggering 45 touchdowns this season. Making the Broncos even more of a threat has been the resurgence of running back Knowshon Moreno (more than 900 yards rushing), and the receiving efforts of Demaryius Thomas (1,149 receiving yards), Eric Decker (1,088 receiving yards) and Wes Welker. As of now, first-year Bronco Welker will likely miss Thursday’s game due to a concussion.
So, what chances do the Chargers have at pulling off the upset against arguably the best team in the AFC and maybe all of football?
In their first encounter in San Diego on Nov. 10, Manning threw for four TDs in leading Denver to a 28-20 win. The Chargers trailed 28-6 at one point, rallying to close within a touchdown and two-point conversion, but came up short. The loss would be the second of three in a row during the month, seriously damaging the team’s chances of qualifying for a wild card spot.
If the Chargers are to have any chance on a cold, late winter night in Denver, it will mean limiting Manning’s moves, along with keeping Moreno and fellow running back Montee Ball from breaking loose.
San Diego will also need a strong performance from running back Ryan Mathews (29 carries, 103 yards versus the Giants), another solid effort from quarterback Philip Rivers, and an offensive line that keeps the aforementioned Rivers upright most of the evening.
As for the injury front, here is the latest report as of Wednesday’s practice:
- Wide receiver Keenan Allen (shoulder) full practice
- Tackle D.J. Fluker (ankle) full practice
- Defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe) full practice
- Center Nick Hardwick (neck) full practice
- Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (hand) full practice
- Defensive end Sean Lissemore (toe) full practice
- Defensive end Corey Liuget (knee) full practice
- Cornerback Johnny Patrick (ankle) limited practice
- Wide receiver/kick returner Eddie Royal (toe) limited practice
- Corner back Shareece Wright (foot) limited practice
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.