DENVER -- **You again? So soon?
Yes, it's the San Diego Chargers who visit Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday -- the same Chargers who beat the Broncos 21-13 on Oct. 13 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Just 17 days separate the two legs of the home-and-home series. In past decades, close proximity between games of an in-season series occurred regularly. From 1960-85, the Broncos played 12 such series -- and had another three in-season series in the 1960s that were played back-to-back.
In the last 30 years, this will mark just the third time a regular-season home-and-home has been completed with just one week in between. The last time it happened between the Broncos and Chargers was in 1985; San Diego won the opening act 30-10 at then-Jack Murphy Stadium on Nov. 3, with the Broncos stealing a dramatic 30-24 overtime win on a walk-off blocked-field-goal return by Louis Wright two weeks later.
But what is more significant than the timing between the games is how the outcome of this series often determined the destiny for both teams.
The Broncos need to salvage a split for many reasons, but the most obvious one is this: They have never made the playoffs in a season in which the Chargers swept them.
San Diego arrives looking for its 11th sweep of the Broncos. San Diego has never posted a losing season when it swept the Broncos, averaging 11 wins per 16 games in those seasons.
It's a potential turning-point game, and with game-time decisions lurking for starters DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Marshall, Matt Paradis and Aqib Talib, questions encircle the Broncos well before kickoff. But no matter who plays, the keys to the game remain the same:
1. BALANCED OFFENSE
A deficit that ballooned to 21-3 before a late Broncos rally 17 days ago led to the final imbalance of 52 pass plays against just 16 runs in the Week 6 defeat.
But even before a fourth quarter in which the Broncos executed 29 pass plays and three C.J. Anderson runs, they had 10 more pass plays than carries. If the Broncos fall behind early -- as they have in each of their last three games -- they must continue trying to work the ground game.
Persistence on the ground allowed the Broncos to gradually break down the Texans last Monday, and it would also be the best way to prevent San Diego defensive end Joey Bosa from teeing off in the pass rush as he has since first being activated in Week 5.
2. GENERATE TURNOVERS AND AVOID YOUR OWN
Last Monday, the Broncos extended their league-best streak of consecutive wins when having a positive turnover differential to 27. Coincidentally, the streak started in an Oct. 15, 2012 win over ... San Diego.
Only giveaways hold the Chargers back from being better than 3-4. Just two teams have more turnovers than the Chargers, and a league-leading 11 of their 15 giveaways were lost fumbles. No other team has lost more than eight fumbles. San Diego's 17 total fumbles are also the most in the league.
3. BE PREPARED FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano rarely has a game plan without some new creative wrinkle. The expected return of cornerback Brandon Flowers will give him more flexibility in the secondary; he missed the last four games with a concussion.
But the biggest wrinkle could be in how he uses Bosa. In his pass-rush situations, Bosa lined up as a wide 6- or 7-technique defensive end for every quarterback hit or sack he notched since the Chargers first activated him in Week 5.
Bosa has seven hits on opposing quarterbacks in the last three games, including four for sacks. On three of the seven hits, he aligned himself wide of the left tackle before the snap; the other four saw him wide of the right tackle.
One of his two hits of Siemian in Week 6 saw him stunt inside after lining up wide of right tackle Donald Stephenson. Bosa's long stride and speed allowed him to stunt all the way over to the A-gap to the left of center Matt Paradis.
Although Bosa has found success with his wide rushes, look for Pagano to try to stunt him inside more often, making the task of containing him one for the entire line, not just the offensive tackles.
A look at a few of the matchups that could decide Sunday's rematch between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. (Photos by AP)