Game of the Week

Posted by Posted by Rich Brown On 6:37 AM

Game of the Week: San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos

Three weeks ago, this Week 11 contest seemed to be a divisional game, not a game with the division lead to be on the line. Heading into the NFL’s Week 8 slate, the Denver Broncos were undefeated, the San Diego Chargers were treading water, and the AFC West seemed under control. Of course, the same could have been said 13 weeks into last season. And you all certainly remember how that season ended for the Chargers and Broncos.
Back to this season, though, and the fact that heading into this week’s game, both San Diego and Denver hold 6-3 records and a share of the AFC West lead. The game is in the Mile High City this week, which does certainly favor the Broncos. But while that fact is helpful, it does not guarantee a victory any week. That is especially true this week, where injuries are a concern for the hosts, especially one in particular which will be focused on in a little bit.

Also playing a factor is the teams’ play in their past games this season. San Diego is coming off a string of impressive performances. Two weeks ago, they went into Giants Stadium and knocked off the NFC East powerhouse, with Philip Rivers delivering a game-winning drive against the team that drafted him originally. After that defeat of the Giants, the Chargers returned home to take on another NFC East team, the Philadelphia Eagles. While the 31-23 final doesn’t reflect it, San Diego controlled this game early and often. LaDainian Tomlinson had one of his best performances of the year, and Philly only threatened very late. The win was San Diego’s fourth straight, and gives them all kinds of momentum going into Sunday’s showdown.
Meanwhile, the Broncos have been heading in the opposite direction. Two weeks ago, at home on Monday night, they were manhandled by the Pittsburgh Steelers, falling 28-10 to them. The defense kept things very close early in that game, but as the second half went on, they wore down, and let the Steelers’ offense dominate the play. Last week, it got worse, as the Broncos traveled to Washington to face the Redskins. The Denver offense got off and going early, with Brandon Marshall racking up two long TD catches. Things fell apart, though, and the main reason was the injury to starting QB Kyle Orton. Once he went down, the Denver team got stuck in neutral and allowed Washington to take the lead, holding the Broncos off, 27-17. This leads right into…

Impact Player: Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos

The man nicknamed “The Neck-beard” was never thought to be the answer at quarterback in Chicago. He has proven that to be false with the way he has played throughout the 2009 season. In fact, he is so important to his team that his status for Sunday’s game will decide the outcome of the game. If he is healthy and able to play within his reasonable standard of play, the Broncos are a better team than the Chargers. If he plays at a substandard level of health, or is unable to play, the Broncos will struggle mightily to win, especially if Chris Simms is forced to make the start. Simms does not look smooth under center for Denver, and that will be a large problem for them to overcome.

Impact Stat: Antonio Gates TD Receptions in 2009- 2

And both of those came in a Week 4 blowout loss to Pittsburgh. So, for 8 out of the 9 games to this point, Gates hasn’t found the end zone. To be fair, it’s a stat that hasn’t killed the Chargers to this point. But, when they are facing a team with great cornerback play, they need Gates to make more of an impact on the game. This is definitely that instance, as Champ Bailey will be looking to lock on to Vincent Jackson at every chance. For San Diego’s passing game to be able to overcome a challenge, Gates will need to make catches, especially as they get into the red zone.
Prediction: San Diego- 17, Denver- 13

The reports all week certainly have made it seem unlikely that Kyle Orton will be able to play for Denver on Sunday. This will severely hamstring Denver’s offensive chances to move the ball, especially hurting the potential explosiveness of Knowshon Moreno, Eddie Royal, and the aforementioned Brandon Marshall. It also will cause the Broncos’ defense to bear another heavy load. They won’t break from it, and I don’t see LaDainian Tomlinson having a similar week to the one he had against Philly. However, that defense will bend just enough to lead to a close win for the Chargers on the road.

by C.J Griger