This isn’t your average Bolt & Pony show.
The Chargers have clinched the division. The Broncos are out of playoff contention. Neither is looking past Sunday’s game.
San Diego is good for the 3rd or 4th seed in the playoffs. With Cleveland and Pittsburgh taking the AFC North chase down to the wire, it’s anyone’s guess as to where any of them will land.
The seeding uncertainty notwithstanding, once you’re locked in the playoffs with no aspirations of a first-round bye, the nagging uncertainty Chargers coach Norv Turner should be pondering is: how much caution to use in the last two games. Do you sit the starters? If so, who do you sit? When do you sit them? Most importantly, how many risks do you take? No one thinks Norv is going to have the team tiptoe up and down the field on Sunday, but how much caution can you afford to throw into that brisk San Diego wind?
Ideally, you want play to the best of your ability. You play to win.
The Denver Broncos, meanwhile, are playing for one of the most dangerous and intelligible reasons of them all: pride. To beat the divisional champ, give them a little kick in the shorts on the way to the playoffs, would be glorious.
Denver is free from the confines of worrying about next week. An arsenal of gadget plays, fakes and long bombs are at the ready. They will leave it all on the field. They don’t care what happens to the Chargers.
Chargers vs. Broncos seems to be a game of the cautious vs. the callous, and Denver knows when the lights go out at Qualcomm on Sunday, win or lose, they’re not invited to the NFL second season.
The game should be fierce yet fitting for such a longstanding rivalry. We see a ‘King Of The Mountain’ every few years in the AFC West with teams knocking each other off the pedestal and reclaiming the crown. This year the glory is staying in Charger country. No doubt the Broncos want to come out and remind them who was top dog not long ago.
Record wise, only three games separate these teams. Not a massive gap, but not really close when you consider this Chargers team stumbled out of the gate, playing woefully average. It wasn’t until week five that San Diego finally showed signs of waking up from the ’06 playoff hangover. Enter the team we see now.
By they way, that week five game was a 41-3 beat down of the Denver Broncos.
Maybe the Chargers can use this game as a springboard as well, proving to the league they are legitimate contenders.