Chargers vs. Broncos: Denver Puts Brakes on AFC West Race, Sights on Playoffs

Christopher Hansen@ChrisHansenNFLNFL AnalystNovember 19, 2012

Von Miller sacked Philip Rivers three times and now leads the league in sacks with 13.0.
Von Miller sacked Philip Rivers three times and now leads the league in sacks with 13.0.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos and the addition of Peyton Manning have been more successful than anyone imagined. The Broncos, Manning and Von Miller have basically sewn up the AFC West after just 10 games. A 30-23 win against the San Diego Chargers in Week 11 gave the Broncos a three-game lead and the tiebreaker against the Chargers with six games to play.

The Broncos need only a combination of three wins or Chargers’ losses to claim the division. That shouldn’t be an issue because the Broncos play the Chiefs twice, the Raiders and the Browns in the final six weeks. The only question now is if the Broncos can beat Tampa Bay and Baltimore to give them a shot at a first-round bye and home-field advantage.  

As it currently stands, the Broncos would be the No. 4 seed in AFC behind the Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots. The Broncos play the Ravens in Week 15 and have a considerably easier schedule than the three teams in front of them.

With Manning and Von Miller, the Broncos are going to have a very good chance of winning every game on their schedule. Manning and Miller have been a lethal combo on offense and defense respectively and they proved that again against the Chargers.

Manning threw three touchdown passes and Miller had three sacks against the Chargers, and if that kind of production continues it’s going to be very hard for any team to keep up. Miller added two forced fumbles on the day.

Miller leads the league in sacks with 13.0 and will be battling with Houston’s J.J. Watt for defensive player of the year. Miller is on pace for 21 sacks, which puts him in territory of the single-season record of 22.5 sacks currently held by Michael Strahan.

Manning is making his case for not only comeback player of the year, but also for offensive player of the year and most-valuable player. It’s resiliency like that he showed against San Diego that makes him extremely deserving.

The Broncos started slow after Manning threw a pick-six to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead. It didn’t take long for Manning to regroup with a touchdown and then a field goal after a Philip Rivers interception. From there the Broncos would pull away, and the closest the Chargers would come is seven points.

The Broncos answered with points every time the Chargers clawed their way back into the game. After the Chargers sacked Manning in the end zone for a safety to cut the lead to eight points, Miller forced a fumble and then Manning hit Eric Decker for a touchdown to put the Broncos up two scores again.

Rivers would come back with a touchdown drive and the Broncos would answer with a field goal, then an interception of Rivers and another field goal. Each time the Broncos scored they also chewed up valuable clock that the Chargers needed to get back into the game.

Of course it wasn’t all Manning and Miller as the Broncos have surrounded them with a fantastic supporting cast, including Elvis Dumervil, Wesley Woodyard and Champ Bailey on defense and a plethora of wide receivers for Manning such as Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on offense.

Woodyard had an interception, Bailey led the team in tackles and Dumervil added a sack and forced fumble against San Diego. Thomas and Decker were each recipients of one of Manning’s touchdowns. It’s a formidable roster when everything is clicking—and everything is clicking right now.

Follow me @ChrisHansenNFL on Twitter or ‘like’ the AFC West Blog on Facebook.