Despite the difference in record the Broncos, not the Chargers, might actually be the team to beat.
Taking a look at each team’s schedule, you see that the Broncos have had the tougher schedule. The Broncos’ three losses have been to three legitimate Super Bowl contenders (the Falcons, Texans and Patriots) and the Broncos have put up a good fight in each (losing by six to both the Falcons and Texans, ten to the Patriots).
Meanwhile, the Chargers are coming off an embarrassing loss to a Saints team that came in to that game winless.
While the Chargers have a home game against the Broncos, the game will be tightly contested. Here are five keys to the game:
1. The Irresistible Force vs. The Immovable Object: The Broncos’ fifth- ranked rushing attack faces off against the Chargers’ fifth-ranked run defense. Who wins? The edge should be given to the Chargers who have slowed down a slew of premier running backs (Turner, McFadden, Johnson, and Chaarles).
2. Home Field Advantage: The Broncos have yet to win on the road, although their losses are to the Falcons and the Patriots, both very strong teams at home. Still winning at the road is not easy, particularly if you have not done it all season. This is a tremendous advantage for the Chargers.
3. Jackie Battle vs. Ryan Matthews: Yet it was a hilarious weekend for those of us who watched our friends start Jackie Battle in fantasy football but it was not hilarious for the Chargers team. Despite the lack of carries for Battle, there is something to be said that Battle is still the number one on the depth chart. That alone guarantees more playing time then Battle should be getting, a particular problem for the matchup this week (see number four).
4. Norv Turner vs. Ryan Matthews: I understand benching your star running back to teach him a lesson about taking care of the football, but why only twelve carries for Matthews against the league’s worst run defense? Fortunately for Norv, the league’s 21st overall run defense is coming in to town. Let’s see if Norv learned his lesson this week.
5. Who shakes off last week’s tough loss: Both teams had rough outings last week. The Chargers were embarrassed on Sunday Night Football and the Broncos were almost ran over by the Patriots before gaining footing late in the game. Seeing who shakes off last week faster could be the difference between a win and a loss.
The end result of this interdivision matchup will have tremendous affects for both teams. These two are the best in the NFC West and the winner could wrestle an early advantage towards getting in to the playoffs.