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Week 6 of Monday Night Football will feature the two leaders in the AFC West as the Denver Broncos travel down to San Diego to meet the Chargers in what is sure to be an important divisional matchup.
With Denver coming off a loss to New England and the Chargers dropping to New Orleans, both squads are looking to rebound. Being that these two clubs are atop the AFC West standings (Denver 2-3 overall, 1-0 division / San Diego 3-2 overall, 2-0 division) as well as both being at EVEN (1 to 1) odds to win the AFC West entering week 6, this game is definitely going to impact the division outlook.
For Denver, the key to this game is going to be cutting down on turnovers as they currently rank in the bottom third of the NFL at -6 through five weeks. Last week, fumbling was a real issue with the Broncos putting the ball on the ground three times, two of which killed drives that were sure to produce points. And, while Manning threw for 337 yards on 41 attempts, he’s going to need to do a better job of feeling pressure and securing the ball as well.
Look for Denver to use the pass again early and often to try to open up some room on the ground for Willis McGahee. San Diego has only allowed an average of 74 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns all season which means Manning will need to spread things out in order for the rushing attack to be effective against a stingy run defense. The Broncos receivers should matchup well against San Diego’s secondary but don’t expect Manning to have 41 attempts again unless Denver finds itself trailing by a few possessions.
For San Diego, winning this game starts on defense. As we mentioned earlier, Manning has been effective recently and thus he has spread the ball around very well. The Chargers are going to have a hard time focusing on just one of Manning’s weapons so they are going to need to be solid across the entire defensive backfield, make tackles, and make turnovers when given the opportunity.
On the flip side, the Chargers have had their share of fumbles and interceptions at inopportune times this season. Most recently, Philip Rivers had the ball knocked loose on what could have possibly been the game tying drive against New Orleans. That probably wasn’t Rivers’ fault as much as it was the offensive line but ultimately the ball came out of his hand securing the Saints’ first win of the season. The point being, San Diego must not exchange turnovers with Denver, they must only create them. The Chargers’ offense has been somewhat enigmatic during stretches of games and any extra possession is only going to help their cause, especially if it is on the Denver side of the field. And, if San Diego can get up early as New England did, Ryan Mathews could have a great day just as Steven Ridley did last week against Denver… it’s important because you need to be effective running the ball when trying to run clock, not just run the ball for the sake of running it.
As for the oddsmakers, they have the current NFL betting odds for this game listed as a Pick ‘Em so basically there is no spread or moneyline… just pick who’s going to win the game. Also available is the over/under points total which has been set at 48 points for regulation and overtime if needed however the over seems the be the slight favorite as indicated by the higher juice (-115 vs. -105) on the wager offered at Bovada.
As usual, kickoff time for Monday Night Football will be shortly after 8:30pm EST with coverage being shown nationally on ESPN.