The NFL playoff picture is set; up next for the Denver Broncos are the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers went into Cincinnati yesterday as the sixth seed in the AFC and beat the Bengals 27-10. As the Broncos are the top seeded team in the AFC and have clinched home field advantage until the Super Bowl, they will face Philip Rivers and the Chargers for the third time this season.
The Chargers took down the Bengals in the second half for their fifth straight win. Prior to their strong finish to the regular season, the Bengals were the last team to beat San Diego. After that game, the Chargers were 5-7 with their playoff chances getting slimmer; but won their final four games, including a 27-20 victory over the Broncos in Denver, to limp into the AFC playoff race as the sixth seed.
The Chargers defense held Andy Dalton and the Bengals defense to a season low of only 10 points. Dalton gave up two interceptions and a fumble while All-Pro receiver A.J. Green was held to only 34 yards from three catches. The Chargers rushing attack proved to be the difference maker as Ronnie Brown, Danny Woodhead and Ryan Mathews wore down the Bengals defense with two touchdowns from almost 200 yards on the ground. Rivers was an efficient passer once again throwing for only 128 yards from a mere 12 completions.
The Broncos are now gearing up for a rematch against the last team to beat them. Last time these two division rivals met, San Diego dominated the running game as well as the time of possession when the Chargers beat the Broncos 27-20 on a Thursday night in Denver. The Chargers held the Broncos to a season low in yards (295) and points (20) in the only San Diego win against Denver in the Peyton Manning era.
If the Broncos want to advance in the playoffs and avoid embarrassment for the second straight season, they need to learn from the mistakes made in the Dec. 12 game against the Chargers. The Broncos must control the clock, do more with the ball when they have it, run the football and not let the Chargers continue drives from silly penalties. The remaining teams in the AFC playoffs all beat the Broncos this season with the Chargers being the only team to beat them in Denver.
The divisional round between the Broncos and Chargers kicks off at 2:40 p.m. Mountain time on Sunday, Jan. 12. Will the Broncos exact revenge, or can the Chargers pull off the upset yet again?