Three Keys for the Denver Broncos Versus the San Diego Chargers


While most fans are still basking in the glow of the Denver Broncos blowout win over the San Francisco 49ers, the team is already deep into their preparations for their Thursday night game versus the San Diego Chargers. It’s not even midseason but this is a critical game in the AFC West.

If the Broncos win, they take firm control of the division and would be well on their way to a fourth straight division title. If the Chargers can pull the upset as they did in Denver last season, then they would fly home in first place.

The Broncos and Chargers know each other extremely well and there are three areas that will go a long way in determining who will win on Thursday night.

Third down efficiency: Both offenses are going to move the ball and the key for the Broncos will be on third down. The Chargers are the best offense in the league at converting and keeping drives alive while the Broncos held the 49ers to 3 for 13 on third downs on Sunday night. The team that gets the better of that matchup will have a huge advantage in the game.

One of the biggest reasons the Chargers beat the Broncos last season was their ability to keep Denver’s offense off the field. Some of that was because of the Chargers offense ability to stay on the field, but a bigger part was the Broncos inability to convert their own third downs. If the Broncos want to move to 6-1, then they need to be at least 50% on their own third down conversions.

Red zone efficiency: As mentioned both offenses are very good and the one that is more efficient in the red zone will have a huge advantage. The Chargers have rediscovered tight end, Antonio Gates in the scoring area and they run the ball extremely well inside the 10 yard line. Quarterback Phillip Rivers is playing very well everywhere but has been extremely effective in the red zone. If the Broncos can make the Chargers kick field goals when they get inside the 20, then their chances of winning increase dramatically.

The Broncos, like the Chargers, are one of the better red zone teams in the league and Peyton Manning is a machine inside the 20. The Broncos create so many matchup problems down around the goal line and it’s tough for a defense to account for everyone. The Chargers may be without two of their top cornerbacks and that will make it even tougher for them to matchup.

In 2013, the Chargers beat the Broncos in large part because they held the Broncos to two field goals on four red zone possessions. If they are going to have a chance at beating the Broncos again on Thursday, then the Chargers defense will once again have to be great in the red zone.

Turnovers: The key in any big game are turnovers and it won’t be any different on Thursday night. Both teams have protected the ball extremely well in 2014 and that allows the offenses the stay on the field.

The Broncos got a big interception from cornerback Aqib Talib versus the 49ers and Manning turned that into seven points on the next play. That made the score 28-10 and effectively ended the game. If the Bronco can get a turnover or two and give their offense a short field, then the Chargers could be in trouble.

The Chargers were able to force a couple of turnovers versus the Broncos in their regular season victory in Denver, including an interception when Denver had the ball late in the game and only trailing by a touchdown. It was that play that ended the Broncos hopes. If the Chargers want a repeat of last season’s victory in Denver, then they must win the turnover battle.

Outlook and prediction: It’s a divisional game between two very good teams and both offenses will make its share of big plays. The difference is the Broncos have a better defense. The Chargers rank fairly high but they are coming off of two games where they gave up 28 points to the Oakland Raiders and 23 to the Kansas City Chiefs, including a two minute drive that led to the game winning field goal.

The Broncos are coming off of their best defensive performance of the season and are getting better every week. The Chargers will make some plays but the Broncos defense takes control in the second half, and the offense pulls away.

Broncos-31 Chargers-20