ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** As he prepares to call an AFC West showdown between two of the NFL's top offenses – and two of its top signal callers, Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers – NFL on CBS lead analyst Phil Simms peered into the future in sizing up Sunday's matchup between the Broncos and Chargers.
Simms, who will call Sunday's game alongside lead play-by-play announcer Jim Nantz, weighed in on the two teams on the NFL on CBS' weekly show Audibles, featuring Simms and analyst Dan Dierdorf. And naturally, the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback's attention was turned to Manning and Rivers, who rank atop or among the NFL's best in nearly all passing categories this season.
Over their first eight games of the season, Manning and the Broncos offense averaged 42.1 points per game, with Manning throwing for an NFL-best 2,919 yards and 29 touchdowns. And for Simms, observing how the Chargers attempt to defend Denver's potent attack is one of the most compelling apsects of the game.
"Anytime you do a Denver game you're always curious to see what the opposing team does to Peyton Manning," Simms said. "Can you slow their offense down? Can you keep them from scoring over 30 points?"
Denver enters Sunday's game averaging an NFL-best 466.4 yards per game on offense and the Broncos also lead the league with a 50.5 third-down conversion rate – an effectiveness that Simms noted not only puts pressure on the opposing team's defense, but also its offense.
"No matter how good your offense is when you play the Broncos, there is tremendous pressure for your offense to score, and somehow find a way to keep them from going over 40," he said. "It's been proven to be tough."
Simms noted that a raucous crowd is one thing that could help disrupt the Broncos' offensive fluidity.
"If the crowd is loud enough, maybe it can cut down his time at the line of scrimmage and his communication even though they have hand signals," he said.
However, even with a noisy crowd and an opportune defense, he noted, slowing down the Broncos remains a challenge.
"That is the formula they saw Indianapolis use and it still took a fumble at the goal line and all those turnovers, yet Peyton still scored in the 30s," Simms said.
Meanwhile, Rivers' 72.2 completion percentage is best in the NFL and the Chargers quarterback has thrown for 2,473 yards and 17 touchdowns against just seven interceptions this year.
"There is no question about it - Philip Rivers is the man," Simms said. "You can tell he's the leader of the team. Yes he is not the most graceful, quickest, strongest, most-powerful armed quarterback in the league, but he sure knows how to play."
Rivers has also only been sacked 12 times this season – second only to Manning's 11 for quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 2,000 yards this year – and Simms attributed the 10-year pro with deceptive elusiveness out of the pocket, as well as being skillful at throwing on the run.
"And for a guy that can't run he seems to get out of more trouble than anybody else when you watch him play," Simms said. "He moves in the pocket and he runs to throw the football and really what is shocking is how much he does it."