The Denver Broncos finally know who they will be taking on next Sunday at Sports Authority Field in Denver. Denver just came off of a bye-week after clinching the one seed which meant home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They found out Sunday afternoon that they will indeed take on the San Diego Chargers after defeating the Cincinnati Bengals. The Chargers would upset the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card round by the final score of 27-10. Denver and San Diego split the season series at 1-1.
What: NFL Divisional Round Playoffs: San Diego Chargers (6) at Denver Broncos (1)
When: Sunday, January 12th
Where: Sports Authority Field, Denver, Colorado
Time: 4:40 PM ET, 2:40 PM MT
These two teams would play each other twice this season as they lie in the same division, the AFC West. Denver would defeat the Chargers in Week 10 by the score of 28-20 behind Peyton Manning‘s 330 yards passing and Demaryius Thomas‘s 108 yards receiving. Most recently, the Chargers stunned the Broncos in Denver on a Thursday night in Week 15, handing Denver their only home loss of the season. Not taking anything away from San Diego but it was on a shortened week. Peyton Manning threw for what was a season-low 289 yards passing at the time, but just threw 266 yards Week 17 against the Oakland Raiders after being taken out after the first half. Since the loss to San Diego, Peyton Manning and the Broncos have outscored opponents 71-27 with the defense playing well with the loss of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller.
The Chargers did what they needed to in their 27-20 win over the Broncos in Week 15. They played old-fashioned smash-mouth football by pounding the rock and running out clock, playing mistake-free football. Ryan Mathews was a handful for Denver, running the ball 29 times for a clip of 4.4 yards per carry, finishing with 127 yards and one touchdown. San Diego controlled the ball for most of the game, holding the ball for 38:49 while the Broncos had it for just 21:11. Denver had the lead early in the first, up 10-3 heading into the second but trailed from that point on. They had to pass, pass, pass to catch up as Denver just ran the ball 11 times. Knowshon Moreno would carry it 8 times while picking up just 19 yards.
The Denver Broncos are well rested and eager to get the monkey off of their back from last year. The defense played exceptionally well in their last game against the Oakland Raiders, blanking them 31-0 heading into the fourth quarter. Denver would put their back-ups in as Oakland capitalized for 14 points. They would give up just 255 yards of total offense, 191 yards passing and 64 yards rushing.
Keys To The Game:
San Diego Chargers:
Keep Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos offense on the sideline: They did an exceptional job of that in their most recent meeting in Week 15, controlling the clock for nearly 66.7% percent of the game. Denver is led by dynamic receivers in Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Eric Decker as all three receivers can create mismatches across the board, including breakout star tight-end Julius Thomas.
Stop The Run Game: The San Diego Chargers pounded the Cincinnati Bengals into the ground in their Wild Card meeting, rushing for nearly 200 yards on 40 carries, 4.9 yards per carry. Ronnie Brown tallied the most yards, rushing just 8 times for 77 yards, 9.6 YAC. Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead split the duties earlier on in the game, as they both finished with 106 yards combined rushing on 28 carries. San Diego played a very conservative offense as well, as Phillip Rivers was limited to 16 passing attempts, but completed 12 of them for a touchdown.
San Diego Chargers:
Keenan Allen: The wide-out would be a key part in the upset over the Denver Broncos, catching two touchdown passes in the win. Against Cincinnati however, he was only targeted three times, catching two of them for just 21 yards. Allen had a tremendous rookie campaign, catching 71 passes for 1,046 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball: If these two can take some weight off of Peyton Manning’s shoulders come Sunday, Denver has the upper hand. Ball played well in their last regular season game, carrying the ball 10 times for 72 yards, with a long rush of 21 yards. Moreno was limited to say the least with just 6 carries for 23 yards. Knowshon has rushed for a career-high with 1,038 yards on the ground including 10 scores, while rookie Montee Ball collected 559 yards with 4 scores.