The San Diego Chargers just can't catch a break. After blowing yet another second-half lead, the team finds itself at 1-4 and now faces the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football. The Broncos are coming off a loss of their own, but they're still in a comfortable position at 4-1.
The Chargers' playoff hopes are rapidly dwindling following their latest meltdown in Week 5. They held a 19-14 lead over the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter, only to see it slip away again. The Raiders jumped ahead to a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, a lead they would not relinquish. San Diego had a chance to send the game to overtime with a field goal, but another critical mistake cost them -- the holder, punter Drew Kaser, fumbled the snap and Oakland held on for the 34-31 win.
If there's a silver lining, it's that the Chargers avoided a season-ending injury this week. Every other game they've seen an important player go down for the year -- Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Manti Te'o, Jason Verrett -- so avoiding any other big losses is a plus. In addition, rookie Joey Bosa made his long-awaited debut and looked great, filling up the stat sheet with five tackles and two sacks. His presence is a major boost to San Diego's defense.
The Broncos had to go without Trevor Siemian for Week 5 and the offense sputtered as a result, with the team taking its first loss of the year to the Atlanta Falcons, 23-16. First-round rookie Paxton Lynch made his first NFL start in place of Siemian. He had his moments, but ultimately didn't look ready for primetime and struggled to generate any real scoring threats for the Broncos. Lynch finished his day with 223 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 23-of-35 passing.
Siemian is still dealing with a shoulder injury, but the team is expected to have him back in time for Thursday's game. The 2015 seventh-rounder has been outstanding this season, and Lynch's struggles ensure there will be no QB controversy as long as Siemian keeps playing well.
On the other hand, the running game is starting to become a concern for Denver. C.J. Anderson has yet to reach 100 rushing yards in a game and is averaging only 3.5 yards per carry on the season. In the meantime, rookie Devontae Booker has been slowly getting more playing time and saw a season-high 10 touches on Sunday. It's not a full-blown committee yet, but the Broncos would surely like to see more production from Anderson to help keep their elite defense rested.
With the Chargers in free fall and head coach Mike McCoy on the hot seat, this is shaping up as a must-win game for San Diego. Although the playoffs are likely out of reach, beating a division rival at home must be considered a morale boost for both the team and the fans. But it will be a tough task if Siemian returns to get the Broncos offense back on task.
How to watch
Time: 8:25 p.m. ET
Place: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
TV: CBS, NFL Network
Announcers: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson
Online: Twitter, Live stream