The AFC West is on the line in Week 15 as the San Diego Chargers host Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Easily the biggest game of the year for the Bolts, a win keeps San Diego in the hunt for the division, while a loss gives Denver the crown.
CBS selected this Week 15 matchup as their one game this week that could not be flexed into the Sunday Night Football game on NBC. Considering the hype surrounding the game thus far, and the major playoff implications for both teams, NBC certainly made a wise decision.
Denver took the first meeting and is undefeated inside the division, so the Chargers need to win out and hope for the Broncos to lose two more games (including one more divisional contest) to have a shot at stealing the division.
Of course, that’s against the odds, so the Chargers may have to settle for just getting into the playoffs as a wild card. That will be fine with San Diego fans, but the road to even that probably starts with a big home win in Week 15.
The heavy implications for this one have Chargers tickets almost as expensive as last week’s Patriots game, as fans will have to pay $297 on average, according to TiqIQ. That’s quite a jump from San Diego’s season average of $134, but when you think about the magnitude of this game for both sides, it’s actually a solid bargain. The cheapest tickets available start at $138, higher than the average price for more than half the games taking place this week.
Naturally, it’s only really a bargain if San Diego can put forth one of its better efforts and do what they did once in 2013 – beat the Broncos.
They might have a realistic shot at doing so, as the Broncos really haven’t been themselves on offense lately. Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas have both either been out of games or hindered in games by injuries, while the Broncos have had to lean heavily on a resurgent ground game to build their current three-game winning streak.
To stop Denver, San Diego will have to step up against the run and be more than the middling run defense they’ve been for much of the year. If they can do that, we can see if Peyton Manning and company are just using the ground game to sustain a nice balance, or if something in the passing game isn’t working.
Broncos fans who want a little weekend getaway in December can check out Hipmunk for San Diego flights starting at $300. Hipmunk also has rates for available Qualcomm Stadium hotels beginning at just $72. That’s almost 50% cheaper than what it costs to get a ticket into the stadium. Broncos fans are used to paying high ticket prices, but they’ll find cheap rates on the road as well.
This game is going to come down to San Diego’s offense and whether it can either dictate the pace of the game or keep up with Manning if it gets out of control. Philip Rivers is capable of successfully doing the latter, but controlling the clock with Ryan Mathews may be the recipe for success. After all, if Mathews can effectively churn out yardage and keep the ball in the offense’s hands, that just means less pressure on the Chargers’ defense. It won’t be easy, but perfect execution on both sides may be in order for the Chargers to get the upset and remain on a steady path to the playoffs.