So much has changed in six weeks…
The Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers have taken such different directions since their meeting Oct. 9 in Denver.
The Broncos lost the game – the last with Kyle Orton as starter – but in the following weeks have won four out of five games. Denver has also won the headlines sweepstakes, courtesy of Tim Tebow, making the Broncos relevant and prominent in the national media.
The Broncos are just about the hottest thing in the NFL, even outshining the still undefeated Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
When it comes to hot, the Chargers are anything but…
San Diego has a penchant for slow starts capped off with a feverish finish. Not this year. After a 4-1 start, the Chargers have dropped five straight games. The last win: Oct. 9 in Denver.
For the talented, yet underperforming Chargers, Sunday is a must-win game. San Diego must end its downward spiral, not only to preserve any hopes of an AFC West title and playoff spot (‘cause the AFC West ain’t getting a Wild Card) but also to prolong Norv Turner’s tenure in San Diego.
You know nothing would delight the Chargers more than to take out weeks of pent up frustration on a division rival.
This one game will tell every AFC West fan a lot about what the homestretch looks like within this division. As mentioned above, you can basically set your watch to San Diego teams only playing well for 2/3 of a season. Usually it’s the first third that’s lacking for them. Did they just mix it up this year and phone in the middle five games? Will Sunday mark the start of the Chargers once again making a run? A win at home could mean the start of a saved season for San Diego while a loss all but guarantees a second year of missing the playoffs.
This game is a huge test for Denver’s improbable, unlikely, “how is this happening” format. The argument could be made that Thursday night’s game against New York added some bona fides to this team. Sunday is bigger. A win at Qualcomm would be a sign the Broncos have the ability to put dangerous, cornered teams away (and not to get ahead of ourselves, but every playoff team is a dangerous, cornered opponent). A victory over the Chargers would easily be the most significant victory this season. Plus, imagine the beauty of seeing a disgruntled Philip Rivers walk off the field, ideally after having thrown 3+ interceptions.
What the Broncos have going for them…
No significant injuries. All players participated in some capacity in Friday’s practice, and no players are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game. That’s about as good as it gets for an NFL team.
The Broncos are coming off an extended break, something that’s almost-but-not-quite a bye week. The extra time has helped players heal and coaches prepare.
Tim Tebow. No explanation is needed, right?
Plotline That Could Be Crucial or Insignificant: Back to the extended break, the added time between games seems beneficial, but is it? The Broncos have pulled off three straight wins, but last week’s victory against the Jets seems so long ago.
You’ll never hear a head coach or players complain about the extra days, but when a team is playing well – and winning games – does a break stunt that momentum?
Final Score: San Diego 24, Denver 17