NFL Preview – San Diego (5-2) at Denver (5-1) (ET)

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

( – Peyton Manning didn’t have much time to savor his latest
NFL record.

The reigning and five-time NFL MVP and his Denver Broncos will kick off
Week 8 of the NFL season when they try to keep their penthouse view atop the
AFC West against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers on “Thursday Night

The contest comes just four days after Manning broke Brett Favre’s record for
most career touchdown passes against the San Francisco 49ers and it will
feature two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks going head to head.

Manning currently leads the league in passer rating with a 118.2 mark and
Rivers is third at 113.0

The Broncos will take their home field searching for their fourth consecutive
victory following a 42-17 drubbing over the Niners on Sunday Night in a game
in which Manning accounted for 318 yards, four touchdowns and a nearly
perfect 157.2 rating.

The veteran tossed for scores on three of his first four drives, connecting
with DeMaryius Thomas for his third touchdown of the game at the 3:09 mark of
the second quarter, the 509th TD pass of his brilliant career, surpassing
Favre for the most in NFL history.

“It was a special night,” Manning said. “It’s one I’ll always remember.”

Following the score, the Broncos receivers along with tight end Julius Thomas
played a game of keepaway with Manning, not letting him have the ball before
finally delivering it to the future Hall of Famer.

The Broncos then played a brief tribute on the big screen, which included
messages from Favre, John Elway and several of Manning’s teammates.

Favre congratulated Manning on Twitter shortly thereafter.

“Well deserved Peyton, Congratulations on breaking my record. #Onto600,” he

DeMaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns for the
Broncos while Ronnie Hillman carried the ball 14 times for 74 yards and two
scores, and added four receptions for 29 yards in the triumph.

“I’m very humbled and very honored,” Manning said when discussing the record
afterward. “I certainly think about how grateful I am for all the teammates
and coaches that I’ve played with and played for throughout my career, not
only here in Denver — in Indianapolis — and all the people that have helped
me along the way. We have the Thursday night game this week, so there’s not
much of a celebration right now.”

San Diego comes in aiming to rebound from a 23-20 home loss to Kansas City
suffered when Chiefs rookie kicker Cairo Santos booted the game-winning 48-
yard field goal, his third of the game, with just 21 seconds left.

Rivers, who came in with an NFL record five straight games with a passer
rating above 120.0, cooled off a bit, finishing 17-of-31 for 205 yards with
two touchdowns and an interception for the Chargers, who lost for the first
time since dropping their opening game of the season at Arizona.

Rookie running back Branden Oliver carried it 15 times for 67 yards while
Keenan Allen has six receptions for 58 yards.

“We didn’t make enough plays. No excuses at all,” Chargers head coach Mike
McCoy said. “We have to do our job.”

The Broncos lead the all-time series by a 58-49-1 margin but things have been
very tight over the previous five years. Denver and San Diego have met 10
times during the regular season since 2009, splitting the series with five
wins apiece.

On Thursdays the Chargers are 7-6-1 while the Broncos are under water at 8-10.


Both Manning and Rivers have generally excelled on short weeks.

Manning will enter this matchup with a 9-2 record as a starter on Thursday,
and is the all-time leader in passing yards (3,305) and touchdown passes (35)
with less preparation time.

Conversely Rivers, who is currently ranked second in the AFC with 1,961
passing yards and third with 17 TD passes, has compiled a 4-1 record on
Thursday, including a 27-20 victory over Denver last season.

Manning had been 3-0 against San Diego with the Broncos before that loss and
has thrown at least one TD pass in all 11 career meetings he has had against
the Chargers.

“We don’t live in the past,” Broncos head coach John Fox said of the loss last
season. “I’ve mentioned many times, you spend too much time looking in the
rear view mirror, you crash, not looking ahead.”

Making things easier for Manning this time could be the potential absence of
San Diego cornerback Brandon Flowers, who will likely sit out after suffering
a concussion against hid old team, the Chiefs. Meanwhile, rookie corner Jason
Verrett was a limited participant in practice on Tuesday after missing the
loss against Kansas City with a shoulder injury.

“We’re playing a great team in the Chargers, a team we’re very familiar with,
as they are with us,” Manning said. “They beat us last year, so we got to get
ready on this short week.”

For his career, Rivers is 10-6 as a starter against Denver, and is 20 games
over .500 (35-15) when starting against AFC West competition. In fact, since
2006, Rivers has the second-most passing yards (12,251) and third-most
touchdowns (81) of any player in the AFC against his own division.

“He’s a tremendous competitor,” Fox said. “We go way back. When I was in the
Carolinas, he played at N.C. State, so I had a chance to watch him perform. I
know a lot about him as a competitor.”

One of the key components to beating Denver last season, running back Ryan
Mathews, is sidelined with a sprained MCL, though. Mathews piled up 127
yards and a TD on 29 carries in the Thursday win last season, spearheading a
rushing attack that outgained the Broncos on the ground by a significant
177-18 margin.

That would be hard to duplicate under any circumstance but with Oliver now
leading the way in the backfield, it’s probably safe to assume that more of
the responsibility with be placed on Rivers’ shoulders.

Oliver has been solid, however, amassing 316 yards — tops for all rookies —
and two touchdowns in three games. However, he will be up against a much-
improved Broncos defense which is third in the NFL, allowing only 74.3 rushing
yards per game, nearly 30 yards better than last year’s unit.

Jack Del Rio’s defense is allowing 242.5 passing yards a game, though, good
for just 18th in football.


There are two things you can kind of count on when talking about Thursday
games, sloppy play and the fact that the short week of preparation heavily
favors the home team which at least doesn’t have to uproot its operation.

The one thing that can neutralize that advantage is the presence of a veteran
quarterback but each team possesses one of them here so the trend remains in
Denver’s favor.

“The big thing about all this is that it is a short week so we don’t have time
to feel sorry about ourselves,” said Charges pass rusher Dwight Freeney. “I
know Denver doesn’t care about last week. We just have to focus on Denver this
Thursday night.”

Sports Network predicted outcome: Broncos 31, Chargers 23