The Chargers will try to prove to a national audience and themselves tonight that they belong in the playoff discussion. Some folks and analysts around the league who haven't been paying much attention may have already written them off. A big win could change all that.
The Chargers are the superior team to the Denver Broncos. While both offenses have been moving the ball and scoring points with ease, the Chargers' defense is for real and should prove the difference in this game. Again, like every other week, San Diego could mess this one up with horrible special teams play and some untimely fumbles.
On defense, I'm looking for Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer, along with Eric Weddle and Paul Oliver, to show they are gelling as a unit and ready for prime time. Many have criticized AJ for some first-round draft picks that haven't panned out, like Buster Davis, Larry English (so far!) and Ryan Mathews (so far!), but Cason is not one of them. In his first year as a starter at corner, he's been extremely solid. If anyone remembers the painful growing pains of Quentin Jammer, Cason seems like a child prodigy by comparison. The Broncos will be able to move the ball and score some points, but also look for this unit to get a couple of key interceptions.
The return of Larry English and Brandon Siler should help the secondary as the linebacking corps will have more fresh legs rushing the passer. English has to be motivated to prove he's not a first-round bust and Siler is fantastic on the sneaky quick blitz up the middle.
On offense, it doesn't look like Ryan Mathews will go. That's fine. Tolbert is capable and should have a good game against a weak and depleted Broncos' defense. Norv would be wise to give Mathews another week or two off to let him get fully healthy as he seems to keep aggravating the same injury.
In the passing game, I will be surprised if Gates makes it on the field this week. He simply needs more time to heal the tear in his foot. On the upside, Malcolm Floyd appears ready to go and should have a big game against a suspect Broncos' secondary. Look for Patrick Crayton and Seyi Ajirotutu to continue getting more and more comfortable with Rivers.
Most analysts seem to be predicting an high flying shootout that comes down to the end. I think the Chargers will be the only ones flying high as their defense will stifle Orton and company.
Chargers 38, Broncos 17