Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/9/13
San Diego Chargers stopping slowing against the Denver Broncos. The Denver Broncos (7-1) come into San Diego, after their bye week, looking to continue their strong season. With head coach John Fox recovering from heart surgery; former Jaguar head coach Jack Del Rio will take charge of the Broncos. Hopefully the familiarity between Chargers (4-4) head coach Mike McCoy with this Denver team can provide some advantages, which the chargers will need any help they can get. McCoy served as the Broncos offensive coordinator from 2009-2013 before taking the Chargers head coaching vacancy. The Chargers are coming in after a tough loss in Washington where they had to settle for a game tying field goal from the 1-yard line after running three unsuccessful plays. With that loss behind the team, it’s time to try to get back on track with a run at the AFC playoffs. It’s certainly a long shot and with all the remaining division games, these have to be looked at like playoff games if the Chargers want to make some second half noise. The Chargers have been able to hang with every team they lost to this season and have been a play or two away from winning most of these close games. This is going to be their toughest game to boot, but some keys that are essential for the Chargers staying competitive in this game are as followers. Getting pressure on Manning  The Chargers secondary is going to need all the help they can get against Manning and his group of receivers. The Chargers have to disrupt the timing of Manning and get him uncomfortable in the pocket. Linebacker Donald Butler, who has missed the past three games, appears to be ready to come back and play Donald Butler appears to be ready to play Sunday against the Broncos Sunday. This is great news for the Chargers who have missed his leadership and playmaking ability in the middle of the field. Thomas Keiser has stepped up in the past couple weeks and needs to continue his dominance, especially if veteran linebacker Jarret Johnson is a no-go with a hamstring injury. Johnson is one of the team’s best pass rushers and with the team already losing Dwight Freeney for the year, this group of young linebackers will have to step up if the Chargers want to upset the Broncos. Chargers secondary playing physical  Another key is again on the defensive side of the ball for the Chargers. There’s no debating the Chargers secondary has been one of the weaker aspects of this team, and with the amount of talented receivers lining up against them this week they will need to step up. The key to slowing down this Denver offense is to jam the receivers at the line and not let them get into their routes cleanly. If Manning has to look off his first or second options, then hopefully the pass rush will make him make a mistake, something not many teams have been able to do through 9 weeks. Another key will be how the Chargers matchup against Denver tight end Julius Thomas. He is a big target for Manning, especially in the red zone. Last week Eric Weddle was covering Washington’s rookie tight end, Jordan Reed, who got open early and often but only finished with 4 catches for 37 yards. It will be key for Weddle or whoever is matched up on Thomas to make some plays on the ball in the air and be physical at the line. Scoring 7, not 3  What I mean by this is the Chargers need to punch the ball in the end zone and not settle for field goals. Too many times this season the Chargers have sustained long drives into the opposition’s red zone and have come up with a field goal or turned the ball over. It will be paramount for Rivers and the Chargers offense to get the ball in the end zone, especially because Manning is going to putting up some points of his own. The Chargers’ only hope to make the playoffs is to run train on the remaining divisional opponents and it starts tomorrow. The Chargers need to play their best defensive game of the season and the offense is going to have to put up a lot of points to keep pace with the NFL’s highest scoring offense. I really want to predict the Chargers are going to pull the upset… but I’ll be a little more realistic. Prediction: Broncos 38 Chargers 27
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