Another week and another playoff atmosphere for the Chargers and their fans. The Broncos know this is a must win for them as they spiral downward on a three game losing streak. This game will decide who is the division winner and who should start hoping for a wild card or making plans for next year.
It seems the league was not ready for Josh McDaniel and Mike Nolan's creative blitzing and stunting 3-4 defense early on and that unit was able to confuse blockers and dominate games. The last few weeks though, teams have figured out blocking schemes that can control all the movement and Denver's sack total and run defense have suffered.
On the other side of the ball, Kyle Orton, in a new city, playing for a new coach on a new team, played above himself and was nearly perfect in the short passing game they asked him to conduct. In the past few weeks though, with added pressure on him because of a sagging defense, the old journeyman Orton has returned. The magic sheen seemed to fade.
The football gods weren't done in bringing the Broncos back to earth as Orton also injured his ankle in a loss to the horrible Redskins last week. The music's over.
All this being said, this game represents a kind of Super Bowl for the Broncos. If they lose this one, there's no doubt their season is over as the team will continue to slide while the Chargers surge. If they win? They might be able to revive that 6-0 magic. Look for the Broncos to come out swinging. Coach McDaniels knows he's in a desperate situation and will throw the kitchen sink at the Chargers: blitzes, trick plays, Ed Hochuli, etc.
The Chargers will have to be at their best early on to withstand this onslaught and break the Broncos' spirit. I think they are up to the challenge. With a new found confidence that comes from winning four in a row, and the calming veteran experience, San Diego will be able to hold it together and win this one.
The Charger offense seems to be using all its weapons now and defenses simply don't know who to focus on. Like a game of Wack-a-Mole, you focus on one threat, and another pops up and bites your butt.
On defense, look for Rivera to call up a few more blitzes this week to put pressure on the rusty Chris Simms who was absolutely horrible last week. They could sit back and let Simms hang himself, but I would prefer they do everything to keep his confidence down in the gutter where it belongs. Don't let him get into any kind of rhythm.
Chargers 20, Broncos 10