The Denver Broncos are favored to advance to the AFC championship, but they have to get past this year’s Cinderella first. The San Diego Chargers were the last team to beat the Broncos and did it in Denver no less; coming into the Mile High City on Sunday determined to repeat their success from Week 15.
After Week 13 sitting at 5-7, the Chargers were the biggest long shot to make the NFL playoffs in 2014. With a little help from the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, the Chargers finished the year at 9-7 and earned the sixth seed in the AFC. Their four game win streak included a 27-20 win over Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road. The Chargers went into Cincinnati as seven-point underdogs and beat the Bengals 27-10; they enter the matchup against Denver as 9.5 underdogs, the biggest points spread of the divisional round.
“It’s another game to us,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said on Wednesday. “When you look at it, we’re going to play the same. It’s another game you’ve got to go in and play. We’re going to do what we do, the coaches are going to put their best game plan together, and go out and have the players execute it.”
At 13-3 as the top seed in the AFC playoff race for the second year in a row, the Broncos and their fans are hoping not to go out like they did last year. Not only do the Broncos not want to suffer another deflating playoff loss, they don’t want it to be against a division rival.
"You’re playing a good football team and it’s going to be a good football game." Manning said. "A lot of familiarity between both teams. I would say there is a lot of knowledge amongst both teams. That kind of evens out and kind of comes down to who makes more plays on the field. That is kind of how I know to approach it and that is kind of what I believe about playoff football.”
Here are the key matchups in the divisional game between the Chargers and Broncos.