Thursday Night Preview: Denver Broncos (11-2) vs San Diego Chargers (6-7)

If you
If you're playing in the Pro Bowl, it means you're not in the Super Bowl... and that's where Peyton Manning was and wasn't last season.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

The Denver Broncos are trying to cement their inevitable position as the number one seed in the AFC... the San Diego Chargers are still, kinda, fighting for the playoffs.

It should all lead to a fine matchup on Thursday Night Football and the first in a while, because these mid-week matinees have sucked so far in 2013. Last week, it was the Houston Texans losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a battle of 'Why Are They Still Trying?' The week before, it was the New Orleans Saints barely beating up on the limp Atlanta Falcons. We've seen the Minnesota Vikings vs the Washington Redskins, the Miami Dolphins overtiming the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Carolina Panthers abusing the then-winless Tampa Buccaneers.

But Denver and San Diego both have a whole to play for tonight, and the Chargers are coming off a 37-14 win over the New York Giants last Sunday.

"Let's get to Denver right now," said San Diego's Eric Weddle to U-T San Diego. "That's what happens when you play a great game in all three phases. It gives you confidence... So let's go out right now and keep our hopes alive.

"We can beat Denver... We're not scared. Maybe other teams are, but we're not."

The scary Broncos Weddle's speaking of are 11-2 and in position to take home advantage through the AFC playoffs. The Broncos have beaten Kansas City twice in 2013 and are coming off a 51-28 win over the Tennessee Titans.

San Diego is 6-7 and is chasing two teams currently tied for the conference's final wild card spot, the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins at 7-6.

Basically, after 13 games, San Diego needs to beat Denver. They have to. But they also have to do it in Denver, in a stadium where the Broncos are 7-0 this season and have won by an average of 20.4 points.

"Harass Manning," wrote U-T's Tom Krasovic, in his keys to beating the Broncs. "Exploit Denver's penchant for fumbling. Exhaust Denver's fast but thin defense that's lost five starters to injuries."

Manning is well on his way to another NFL MVP this season, with 45 touchdowns (and nine interceptions) through just 13 games for 4,522 yards and a 114.5 rating.

But the Broncos will be without receiver Wes Welker on Thursday. Welker, who is third on Denver's depth chart with 778 yards and has 10 touchdowns, suffered his second concussion since November 17 in last week's win over Tennessee.

From the Denver Post and Benjamin Hochman:

"The Broncos could very well win the Super Bowl. Will Wes Welker remember it? ... He is no longer a football player. He is a roulette player."

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