By Dave Thomas

For the San Diego Chargers, the sense of urgency is here and now.

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After dropping a tough 23-14 loss this past Sunday evening to the AFC East-leading New England Patriots, the Chargers find themselves sitting at 8-4 with three games remaining in the regular season.

Next up on the slate is this Sunday’s regular season home finale, a visit from Peyton Manning and the AFC West first-place Denver Broncos (10-3). While a loss to the Broncos certainly does not eliminate San Diego from AFC playoff contention, it sure would make the idea of back-to-back playoff appearances for the Bolts all the more difficult.

Once the home slate ends this coming weekend, the Chargers finish off the 2014 regular season schedule with visits to San Francisco and Kansas City, respectively.

Denver Searching For Division Crown, Top Seed

While the Chargers are looking at this point to all but secure a wild card position (two games behind Denver with three to go), the Broncos not only want the AFC West crown yet again, they also want the top seed in the conference. Locking in the top spot would allow Peyton Manning and company to play all their playoff games in Denver, avoiding a trip to Foxboro for starters.

The Broncos enter Sunday’s game fresh-off a 24-17 win over a spirited Buffalo team. Leading 24-3 at one point, the Broncos found out that the Bills (San Diego defeated Buffalo earlier in the season 22-10) are certainly no pushover.

To no one’s surprise, Manning is having another stellar year under center, though his chances of claiming yet another MVP award are far from a lock. With the performances to date of guys like J.J. Watt, DeMarco Murray and Aaron Rodgers, Manning has some stiff competition for the league’s top player award when all is said and done.

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Coming into the second meeting of the season (Denver won 35-21 earlier this season at home) with San Diego, Manning has thrown for 3,910 yards and 36 TD’s. Those numbers have helped give him a QB passer rating to date of 105.7.

While Manning’s arm and the hands of his receivers are always the major threat for any opposing defense, Denver has also, despite injuries, found itself a running game in the form of one C.J. Anderson.

Heading into this Sunday’s match up, Anderson has rushed for 594 yards and four touchdowns. If Anderson is able to establish the running game once again this weekend, the Chargers could be in for a long day, especially given the fact that it allows Manning to hit multiple targets down the field.

On the defensive side of the ball, Denver (leads all-time series with San Diego 60-49-1) is paced by linebackers Brandon Marshall (108 total tackles) and Von Miller (13 sacks), respectively.

For Denver (Broncos have games after this Sunday at Cincinnati and home to Oakland), the stakes are just as high this Sunday as they are for the Chargers.

A win locks up the AFC West crown and keeps Denver on pace with New England for the top spot in the AFC.

For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.

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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.