Broncos vs. Chargers 2013 game preview: Showdown in the West

San Diego needs a win and could pull off a huge upset at home against Peyton Manning and the boys

The Denver Broncos will hit the road and take on the San Diego Chargers on Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.

Denver comes into the game at 7-1, trailing the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs by 1.5 games. The Broncos are widely regarded as the best team in the league despite being second in their own division, thanks to an offense that is one of the best in NFL history.

San Diego is trying to rebound from a brutal loss last weekend against the Washington Redskins. Down three and first and goal at the 1-yard line with under a minute to go, the Chargers could not get into the end zone. Instead, the game went into overtime and the Redskins were able to pull it out. At 4-4, San Diego is a half-game out of the AFC's No. 6 seed.

Meet the Broncos

This is a team based entirely on its offense. Sure, the defense may improve as Von Miller gets back into football shape after a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy to start the season, but they will always have to carry the rest of the team.

Peyton Manning has been enjoying the best season of his career, which is really saying something. Manning has already thrown for 2,919 yards and 29 touchdowns against only six interceptions. Manning has an outside chance to throw for 6,000 yards, an absurd number that would shatter the previous record of passing yards in a season set by Drew Brees at 5,476.

Defensively speaking, the Broncos rank 24th in yards allowed per game and 25th in points given up at 27.3. Denver's biggest problem, by a mile, is the pass defense. The Broncos surrender 299.1 yards per game, only better than the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

Meet the Chargers

The story of the 2013 Chargers begins and ends with the resurrection of quarterback Philip Rivers. The former 2004 first round pick has amassed 2,473 yards and 17 touchdowns versus only seven interceptions. Rivers has been able to master Mike McCoy's offense which is reliant on completions of any distance, registering a league-high 72.2 completion percentage.

Rivers has been helped out by having a healthy Antonio Gates. The college basketball player turned All-Pro tight end has been enjoying a terrific campaign, totaling 48 catches and 550 yards with a pair of touchdowns. On the outside, rookie Keenan Allen has emerged as a solid receiver with 527 yards and 15.5 yards per reception.

Unfortunately, the good news stops on offense. San Diego has struggled at just about everything defensively, giving up yards and points at a very high rate. With no true pass-rusher to speak of, the Chargers rank 27th against the pass. The rushing defense also has plenty of problems, giving up over 118 yards on average.

Local take: Denver

Over at Mile High Report, Bronco Mike is looking ahead to the matchup between the Chiefs and Broncos on Nov. 17:

This game is just the beginning of the best to come. The only home game in this 4 game stretch occurs Sunday, November 17th. Finally, we get to see if that sterling 9-0 record is all it's cracked up to be. The unstoppable force (Bronco offense) meets the immovable object (Chiefs defense), and the first in two epic battles will play out in primetime. Manning and company are no strangers to primetime. Over the course of 24 regular season games, they have played 8 under the lights with all of America watching. Their record? 6-2. The gameplan? Simple: Win.

Local take: San Diego

Kyle Posey of Bolts From The Blue want to know why Ryan Mathews does not get the ball more:

Starting with offense, let me just throw these numbers out. 22, 21, 7.

Those are the number of carries in the last three games for Ryan Mathews. It's not as if Mathews had 7 carries for 7 yards in this game. He had 7 carries for 34 yards, 25 of those coming after contact. Twenty-Five. We tear Mathews apart as a fan base, but as hard as he's running, as well as he's running, I just can't understand why it's so hard to give him the ball.

Follow the Fun

Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Mile High Report and Bolts From The Blue, for more analysis and highlights from the game.

Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:

@MileHighReport

@BFTB_Chargers

Prediction

The Chargers could really use this win to propel them toward a wild card spot. The problem is the defense can't stop anybody, let alone Manning and his plethora of weapons. It is going to be hard for San Diego to keep Denver under 40 points in this game, putting a ton of pressure on Rivers. Granted, the Broncos secondary might be the worst in football and the front seven is nothing special either, but 40 points is asking a ton.

Pick: Denver 42, San Diego 35

Odds

The Broncos are 7.5-point favorites on the road over the Chargers, according to Oddsshark.com.

Next Week

Denver plays host to the undefeated Chiefs on Sunday Night Football while San Diego travels to take on the Miami Dolphins.

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