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Broncos vs. Chargers: Top Five Storylines

Posted Dec 11, 2013

What to watch for this week vs. San Diego.

Short Week

Denver and San Diego will take the field on Thursday just four days removed from their previous games. For Denver, that was a 51-28 win vs. Tennessee and for San Diego it was a 37-14 win vs. the New York Giants.

“It’s a challenge for both teams and certainly we knew it was on the schedule and is a real discipline by each player to get themselves physically ready to play,” quarterback Peyton Manning said Tuesday. “Get your rest, at the same time trying to study your opponent getting ready to play them.

“But there’s no question it’s a challenge.”

Denver has won its last five Thursday night games, dating back to the 2008 season.

While it is difficult to play on the short week, the benefit of the mid-week games is the mini-bye weekend that can follow. After Thursday’s matchup, the Broncos will have 10 days to get ready for their week 16 game at Houston.

“You don't want to be on the losing end of a Thursday night game, thinking about that for 10 days until the next game,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “If we do what we're supposed to do, then it will be good to get a little break."

Records to Watch For

As the 2013 regular season draws closer to its conclusion, the Broncos are on pace to set several records.

The record that most fans have their eyes on is the single-season touchdown record, which was set by Tom Brady when he threw 50 touchdown passes in 2007. Quarterback Peyton Manning is five touchdowns away with 45 on the year.

As a team, the Broncos are on pace to set NFL records for first downs, total points and total touchdowns.

However, the only records that the players are focusing on are the ones that matter in the standings.

"The one we’re concerned with is our win-loss record," Manning said. "It tells you how competitive our division that you’re still having to take care of business each week to have a chance to possibly when the division and that’s where our focus is. Our job as an offense is to score points, score more than our opponent.”

Chargers a Familiar Foe

With only three days to prepare for this week’s matchup against San Diego, the fact that the teams have already played one another this year helps lesson the strain.

The Broncos traveled to San Diego just more than a month ago for the clubs’ Week 10 matchup on Nov. 10.

“The good thing is that we're playing against a team that we're familiar with, so I have all my notes from the first time we played them, and it's something that I'll look over,” cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “Since I kind of know what they do, it makes it a lot easier to go out there and play.

While that familiarity helps the preparation process, it doesn’t work as an advantage for either team, since the familiarity works for both sides.

“I think it’s helpful but it’s helpful both ways,” Head Coach John Fox said. “We’ve done this three times and I think our first three times maybe not quite as familiar, but both teams have to operate under the same duress and that is play on Sunday and get ready for a game on Thursday.”

Playoff Stakes

While the Broncos have already locked up the franchise’s 20th all-time postseason berth, the team is still looking for the AFC West title as well as a first-round bye.

Both of those can be secured this week but Denver needs some help from around the league for that to happen in Week 15.

“Maybe a little but not much I don’t think,” wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said when asked how much players were thinking about playoff seeding. “We’re still going to take it like everybody else does – one game at time. We can’t overlook anybody on our schedule because everybody in the league, this is what we do. We take it one game at a time and go from there.”

Denver controls its own destiny for the AFC’s top seed and the homefield advantage that comes with it. The top seed can’t be clinched this week, but a first-round bye can.

For that to happen, Denver would have to beat San Diego and then Kansas City would have to lose at Oakland plus Cincinnati would have to lose or tie at Pittsburgh on Sunday.

To clinch the AFC West title, Denver would have to win on Thursday and have Kansas City lose on Sunday.

Getting Healthy

With just three days between games, that makes for shortened time to get ready mentally as well as physically.

Especially this late in the season, there are plenty of nagging injuries that players on both teams are dealing with.

A total of 18 Broncos were listed on the injury report this week, with three players missing practice on Tuesday.

Wes Welker suffered a concussion last Sunday against Tennessee and Derek Wolfe missed his second straight game due to illness. Trindon Holliday, who was inactive last week with a shoulder injury, was listed as a limited participant and Champ Bailey, who also missed last week’s game with his foot injury, has been listed as a full participant so far this week.

For the Chargers, center Nick Hardwick and Eddie Royal were listed as did not participate for the hypothetical Monday practice and improved to limited for Tuesday’s actual session. Cornerbacks Johnny Patrick and Shareece Wright went from full on Monday’s listing to limited on Tuesday.

The final injury report with game statuses will be released Wednesday afternoon.

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