Brock and his Broncos have so far escaped a Bear trap and avoided a nasty little Pat fall in last week’s epic showdown with New England.
There are no tougher opponents in the NFL than the current Superbowl Champions and by hook or crook, Denver managed to secure a season altering, perhaps defining, win.
It is easy to get swept away in the euphoria and emotion of carving Tom Brady up like a turkey in a stirring and stunning win but Broncos fans beware; there is still much football to play and we may yet be deflated ourselves.
The dust may have settled on the score, the snow cleared on result but its significance is yet to be determined. At this moment, impressive and unlikely as the win seemed, it did not improve our immediate standing.
Having vanquished our most powerful foe in New England, it is easy to fall into the malaise that we can ride out the season undefeated and secure homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
However, if the Road to Superbowl 50 is to come through Denver, there are still stiff challenges to overcome including a visit to Big Ben and Steelertown and a hosting of the impressive but admittedly streaky Bengals.
This week the currently projected 3rd seeds in the AFC travel to the 3 -8 San Diego Chargers. Looking at the records, on paper this should be a routine road win and take Denver a step closer to securing their 5th AFC West Crown in as many years.
This would tie a record of most consecutive Division Titles with the great Raiders team of the early seventies. Broncos fans will be hoping history repeats itself as Oakland won it all in their fifth and final AFC West triumph.
More importantly though for Denver, a victory today allows the Mile High Men to hold a tighter control of their own playoff seeding.
So are the 9 -2 Broncos really that much better than the struggling Chargers?
This year, perhaps more so than any other year of the 49 previous Superbowl seasons, there has been a greater parity in the NFL. Anyone can beat anyone – Any Given Sunday as it were.
Eight of Denver’s eleven games this season have been decided by a touchdown or less. Incredibly Denver has been victorious in 7 of those 8 outings, their lone defeat coming against Indianapolis.
Cleveland, like New England, went to overtime. It is testament to a great fighting spirit, belief and playmaking ability in all phases of the game that Denver boasts the record they do. There has also been a healthy dose of good fortune.
The Vikings, Chiefs and Bears all had good opportunities to beat the Broncos but somehow all conspired to come up short.
Had Denver’s record been a more modest 6-5, we would have no great cause for complaint and perhaps it would have been a truer reflection of our team’s performances, particularly earlier in the season and lowered our expectations.
Today’s opponents, like Denver, have also had 8 of their 11 games decided by 7 points or less. By contrast though, San Diego have won only 3.
With some better luck, a different bounce of the pigskin and dare I say generous officiating, the Californians could easily have found themselves at 5-6 or even nudged themselves over .500pct and to the periphery of playoff contention.
So I would contend today’s game will be closer than many are expecting.
We have a clear advantage on one side of the ball. Unlike the Broncos, the Bolts do not possess an elite defense. Their D gives up on average 28 points per game, 3rd worst in the NFL and they have allowed just shy of 5 yards per carry. That seems an ideal match up as with Brock under center, his offense has been churning out 5.3 yards per run. If Hillman and Anderson keep the momentum and chains moving today, it allows the still inexperienced Osweiler to open up the passing attack.
Charger DC John Pagano is going to try to confuse No.17 and show him different looks and disguises. To his credit so far Brock has shown a high level of literacy when reading defensive fronts.
Whilst Denver have deeper and more plentiful offensive weapons than the depleted Chargers offense, do San Diego, in fact, possess the most potent of them all?
Many of the AFC West quarterbacks have displayed their attributes this season and over the years. Peyton Manning, statistically, is the greatest QB in NFL history but like the trajectory of an Osweiler pass, he is on a downward spiral. Brock, himself, is so far unbeaten. Alex Smith is in the midst of the NFL’s longest active streak for interceptions at 283 and counting. Derek Carr is having a breakout season and threatening to make the Raiders relevant once again.
And yet, Philip Rivers in the best QB currently in the division! No matter the achievements of his luminaries or the potential upswing of the young guns, if your life depended on an AFC West passer, on Rivers you would bank to pilot your team’s offense today.
According to Pro-Football-Reference (pref.com) despite the team’s woes, Rivers is ahead of his career averages in TDs per game, attempts and yards per game. I doubt anyone will relish playing against the Denver D but there is no doubt it has been weakened with the absences of Sly Williams and to a greater extent TJ Ward.
Over aggression has sometimes been Denver’s undoing and the Broncos D has been tested and exploited with passers less talented than Rivers. Limiting those big plays and stopping Rivers’ hook-ups with Antonio Gates will be the keys to winning this game.
All things considered, sadly for the Chargers, I predict they will be once again on the wrong end of another one score game. I expect Brock to keep his Bootleg Broncos undefeated and Denver will be able to put the obligatory 28 points on San Diego and the Chargers and Rivers seasons will be as good as burst!
San Diego 21 – Denver Broncos 28