By Dave Thomas

If there ever was a must-win game this season for the San Diego Chargers, it would be here and now this Sunday in Denver.  With a loss to the Broncos, the Bolts all but end their hopes of catching Denver (6-3) for first place in the AFC West. With a win, however, San Diego (4-5) would move within a game of first place, having six games left to pull off the miracle.

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Credit, Jeff Gross/Getty Images

For a team like the Chargers who have lost four of their last five contests, catching a hot Denver team could not have come at a worse time. Not only have the Broncos been winning as of late, but they have been rather dominant in the process.  Much to the surprise of basically no one, Denver has been riding the arm and play calling of future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning this season. Entering Sunday’s contest with the Chargers, Manning sits with the NFL’s highest QB passer rating at 108.0.

Manning’s top receiver threat is Demaryius Thomas, sporting 54 receptions for 891 yards and 4 touchdowns, though fellow receiver Eric Decker leads the team with 7 TDs.

If Manning’s current passer rating were not bad enough news for the Chargers, they also enter the game knowing this is the team approximately one month ago, they blew a 24-0 halftime lead to. In the second half, the Chargers watched Manning and Co. score 35 unanswered points, leave San Diego with a ton of confidence, and put the Bolts in a hole they have yet to dig out of.

So, who else besides Manning will head coach John Fox throw (literally and figuratively) at the Chargers this Sunday?

Broncos Bring More Than Just Manning

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Expect the Broncos to give San Diego a healthy dose of running back Willis McGahee, who enters the contest having rushed for 676 yards and four TD’s to date this season.

Defensively, Denver has revved up its game in recent weeks, with Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil teaming up for 17 sacks on the season. If there is a bright note for the Chargers, it is the fact that Dumervil is listed as questionable after suffering a left shoulder injury in a win at Carolina last Sunday.

If there is a silver lining for the Chargers, it comes in the fact that San Diego has won three straight and five of its last six trips to the Mile High City. Denver, however, leads the all-time series 56-48-1.

Actually, given how the Bolts have played recently, being on the road and not having their fans turn on them may actually be a good thing.

For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Chargers news, see CBS Sports Los Angeles.

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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on