With the victory against the NFC North champion, Cincinnati Bengals, the San Diego Chargers have earned themselves yet another rematch with Peyton Manning and the high powered Broncos offense.
The question coming into the playoffs was the Chargers defense and could it make plays when they needed to … and they clearly put those questions to rest as they made Bengals QB Andy Dalton look like a blind man with their smothering defensive schemes. That same intensity and unpredictability will be needed against one of … if NOT the BEST to ever play a regular season game … Peyton Manning.
This is the third time that the Chargers and Broncos meet on the gridiron as they have split the match-ups of the 2013 regular season (both teams winning on the others’ home field) and it was the Chargers who handed the Broncos their first and only home loss of the season … so do not expect Manning and the Broncos to forget that.
The difference in this game will come down to the defenses … as it did in that very match-up. The Chargers defense was extremely clever in disguising their coverage’s and not allowing Manning to decipher what they were wanting to do against him. Their timely blitzes and ability to get a solid pass rush with just four down lineman, took Manning and the Broncos out of their game-plan and left them dazed and confused to the point of the Chargers handing them a loss in Mile High.
Don’t expect that same performance from Manning and the Broncos on offense but it is the Bronco defense that still has the questions. With the injury to Bronco LB Von Miller, the Chargers offense led by Comeback Player of the year candidate Phillip Rivers has one less pass rusher to worry about and that can play a BIG role in the offense the Chargers decide to use in this most important rematch.
While RB Ryan Matthews having a great season continues to perform, the pleasant surprise has been his back ups, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown. These two RBs have not only protected Matthews from injury but without question have contributed to this playoff run. The Chargers are a “run first” team and to have a plethora of RBs that can perform at a high level … allows the offense to do what it wants at will against any opposing defense … and it just so happens that the Broncos are next on the list.
This game will get a lot of attention and a lot of hype for many reasons. Bottom line … it is just another game in the long standing rivalry between two AFC West teams that just do not like each other … and with the career success that Phillip Rivers and the Chargers have against a Peyton Manning led team … just adds more fuel to the fire that is the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
Written by LaShawn Encarnacion