Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/15/12
I normally don’t turn off football games despite the score line because there’s always a chance you might miss something truly extraordinary.  Nothing emphasized that point better than the last time the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers met on a Monday night during week 6 of the regular season, as I managed to watch one of the most incredible comebacks in the 2012 season. San Diego put up one of the most dominant first halves in staking up a 24 to 0 lead at the break, but they absolutely crumbled in a second half littered with mistakes on both sides of the ball as the Broncos found their swagger.  The result has catapulted the Broncos to four straight wins since the comeback and control of the AFC West divisional race, while the Chargers have won just one game in their last four, a week 9 win over Kansas City.The Broncos and Chargers meet again in week 11 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in an afternoon battle that could put the Broncos in complete control of their playoff future or push the Chargers back into the discussion for the postseason.  Any time these two teams meet, there’s always an element of unpredictability that potentially affects the end result.Even the most die hard Broncos fan would have been hard pressed to sit through a game when your side falls behind by 24 points, but I think the situation really forced the Broncos to find their identity on both sides of the ball.  Since that second half, they’ve been a completely different football team and have entered the discussion about the elite sides within the AFC.  However, if you look at the actual statistics within this match-up, there’s not much difference numerically between the two teams. With that in mind, here are my three bold predictions for this weekend’s affair.1. In a battle between two of the AFC’s best quarterbacks, the team that gets the best contribution from their running game will win this game.  I believe that will be the Broncos.  Philip Rivers might not have the statistics for San Diego like Peyton Manning has put up for the Broncos, but Rivers is extremely capable in putting up quality numbers when he has the time and protection to hit his receivers.  Another aspect that helps the Chargers’ offense is having some semblance of a running threat to take pressure off Rivers. While the Broncos have used an improved passing game with Manning finding various targets in their four wins with regularity such as Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, they still rely upon contributions from Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman and the rest of their running core to balance out their attack.The winner of this game will be able to establish a credible threat to run the ball, even if the actual output is minimal so as to keep the defenses honest.  While I like Ryan Mathews as a player, he’s been too inconsistent and injury prone to be counted upon and the other running back options have too many questions.  While McGahee did have two fumbles against Carolina in their last game, I like the Broncos stable of backs to rebound with an improved effort and that will help lead them to the home win.2. The mental state of each team will be tested in this game, and San Diego will need to forget what happened in week 6 to win, but I don’t see it happening.  San Diego played reasonably well in their week 10 game in Tampa Bay as they put up over 400 yards of total offense with a 66 percent success rate on third down conversion.  That should be enough to post a win in most weeks, but the Chargers did themselves in with two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown, and giving up a punt return touchdown.  The margin between victory and defeat is often razor thin, and the Chargers have found themselves staring at many frustrating losses that come down to mistakes made at inopportune times.  With a Denver team brimming with confidence and playing in front of their rabid home fans, I don’t expect them to make many errors so San Diego will need to play a perfect game to get the road win. I’m just not convinced they have it in them to do that in the Mile High City.3. Denver has been looking for a spring board to make a deep playoff run, and I don’t think they get knocked off track against the Chargers.  What I am most impressed by about the Broncos during their four game wining streak is that it’s not just one aspect of their team that is pushing them along. They’ve received contributions from every part of the club to put them in the driver’s seat in the AFC West, and that’s the recipe for a deep run towards the postseason.Manning has been far more comfortable with his varying receivers and while Decker and Thomas have emerged as the key threats, the Broncos have had other receivers step up to make key catches.  The defense was impressive in their win in Carolina in week 10, and they also made some key stops in the win over Cincinnati when they were finally able to start pressuring Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.  They’ve also watched Matt Prater and Britton Colquitt perform their kicking duties exceptionally, while Trinton Holliday has energized a return game that was average prior to his signing but has now added some flair and escapability to their attack.  With some key games coming up in the next few weeks, I know Denver wants to continue controlling their destiny, and I don’t see the Chargers posing enough of a threat to stop them.With the Broncos faithful cheering them on for the entire game, I expect this to be an exciting game but the Broncos will eventually take control and win handily 35 to 20. This should give them forward momentum going into their road game in Kansas City for week 12 while the Chargers continue to try and find an identity.
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