If you go by sight test alone, there appears to be a very good chance that Norv Turner will be fired somewhere in the depths of Sports Authority Field around 5:25 p.m. MT Sunday. The San Diego Chargers are a team in crisis. While San Diego’s 4-5 record doesn’t make them appear too far behind Denver, consider that since Week 2, the only team in the NFL the Chargers have won against is the lowly Kansas City Chiefs. Twice.
It’s been just over a month since the Denver Broncos traveled to San Diego for Week 6′s Monday night finale. Down 24-0 at the half, the Broncos stormed back with 35 unanswered points in arguably the most impressive half of football by any NFL team this season.
Denver hasn’t loss since, and in fact, has looked almost unstoppable during much of a four-game win streak.
When San Diego has the ball: Despite all the calls for Turner’s immediate exile, San Diego’s true problems aren’t so much scheme as poor play. This is a team built around the assumption that Philip Rivers will get the job done. Frankly, he just hasn’t been doing that. So far this season, the Chargers rank second-worst to the aforementioned Chiefs in Interceptions Thrown Percentage. Through nine games Rivers is averaging one interception for every 25 passes thrown. The one redeeming factor for Rivers is that percentage is significantly improved on the road, where he’s only throwing an interception every 42 passes.
What doesn’t look great for Rivers is the Broncos defense is eighth in the league in terms of opponent interceptions thrown percentage. The Broncos are snagging a pick every 33 passes or so. That number is down slightly at home, but basically, if statistical trends hold true it’ll be fair to say that if Rivers throws the ball 40 times or more, at least one of those passes will end up in Denver’s hands.
When Denver has the ball: Call me spoiled, but the Broncos offense was lacking last week in Carolina. The unit scored 20 points, which is great…if this were 2011.
Denver’s running game has sputtered as of late; the Broncos have averaged just 66.5 yards a game in their last two games. In fact, Denver rushed for only 56 yards a game in that memorable Week 6 meeting in San Diego. Running backs Willis McGahee, Ronnie Hillman and company don’t need to combine for 150 rushing yards a game, but a stalled ground attack puts even more pressure on Peyton Manning’s 36-year-old arm. Manning has delivered thus far, as he has his entire career. (Remember the Indianapolis Colts’ potent rushing attack? Yeah, me neither.)
One caveat, however; don’t fumble.
Head coach John Fox said ball security would be a focus this week in practice. McGahee has already equaled his career season-high with five fumbles (four lost). Maybe it’s just a combination of bad luck and good defense, but McGahee is another turnover or two from liability status and increasing the workload of Hillman or Lance Ball.
Denver 28, San Diego 17
The Chargers enter Sunday with their backs against the wall. Technically it’s not an elimination game, but San Diego’s playoff hopes will be extremely slim should they record another loss. The stats are comforting, but the Broncos will need an incredibly strong effort to put San Diego away for good.
If all goes as expected, #FireNorv will be trending on Twitter by day’s end.
In case you missed it: DHF’s video preview of Sunday’s game from earlier this week >>>>