Thursday Night Football
San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2)
8:30 pm ET on NFL Network
The San Diego Chargers look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive Thursday as they take on division rival Denver at Mile High. San Diego probably needs to win all three of their remaining games to have a shot at making the playoffs, and can be eliminated from the post season with a loss plus a win by the Ravens at Detroit on Sunday. After a slow start last week Denver steamrolled Tennessee, scoring 51 points while racking up 551 yards of offense. The Broncos are a perfect 7-0 at home this year and can clinch the AFC West with a win, followed by a Raiders victory over Kansas City on Sunday.
In the previous matchup between these two clubs five weeks ago the Broncos won 28-20 at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers led 7-6 before Denver scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter, and another early in the third to go in front 28-6. San Diego closed to within eight after scoring on the first drive of the 4th quarter and things looked good when they got the ball back with 6:43 left to play. However, a fumble and sack forced the Chargers to punt with 3:30 to go, and they never got the ball back.
QB Philip Rivers has had a great season, completing 70.3 percent of his passes for 3,882 yards with 26 TDs and only nine interceptions. He has been light out in San Diego’s six victories, completing 76 percent of his passes with just one pick; in the losses Rivers has thrown eight interceptions. WR Keenan Allen has a rookie franchise record 61 receptions for 902 yards and five touchdowns, Ryan Mathews has rushed for 4.3 yards per carry and 885 yards, and old pal Danny Woodhead has 864 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns.
The San Diego defense is still not very good, though it is heading in the right direction. The Charger defense ranks 28th in yardage (383 yards per game), is allowing 8.4 yards per pass (31st), and opponents are completing 67.1 percent of their passes (30th). However, the Chargers have forced twelve turnovers in the last eight games; they had just two in the first five games this year.
Denver may be without Wes Welker, who suffered his second concussion this year, though that should not slow them down. Knowshon Moreno has twelve touchdowns and has rushed for 920 yards, and Peyton Manning still has plenty of receiving targets: Demaryius Thomas (74 receptions for 1,1145 yards and 11 TD), Eric Decker (71/1,088/8) and Julius Thomas (50/625/11). While there are still questions about a Bronco defense that gives up 26.5 points and 374 yards per game, it’s going to take a monumental effort by San Diego to come out on top.
Pick • Broncos 35, Chargers 27
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