Jussel: Desperate Broncos will give Chargers a tough game

Twice each year, I think back to the way things were. I become despondent because Jay Cutler isn’t around to lead the Denver Broncos against the San Diego Chargers.

You will, of course, remember the good old days when Cutler, then the Broncos wunderkind, and Charger quarterback Phillip Rivers would act like a couple of first-graders battling for first spot in the recess line, repeatedly sticking their tongues out and calling each other names.

Cutler is long gone to the Chicago Bears (more on that much later in the season). Rivers is, much to the chagrin of Oakland, Kansas City and Denver fans, still alive and well and quarterbacking the Chargers, a perennial Pro Bowl pick and one of the game’s few elite quarterbacks.

Rivers, being the good sport that he obviously is, no longer has reason to become provoked over anything Bronco-related. Having led the Chargers to eight wins against Denver in the past 10 meetings, Rivers barely has to pay attention on Bronco game day, much less take verbal cheap shots at them.

Last season, the Chargers beat the Broncos twice. The same happened in 2007 and 2006 when Rivers was at the controls for San Diego. The Chargers, over that five-year period with Rivers at the controls, have outscored Denver 390-192.

The beat — or beatings — will go on, right? Reason is stacked upon reason.

San Diego is 3-1, not exactly off to their normal terrible start, and Denver is 1-3, fresh off a pasting at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.

There is also THE quarterback controversy in Denver, partially because the Broncos are ranked near the bottom of the league offensively, but mostly because Tim Tebow is on the Denver roster, but not in the Bronco lineup. There are rumblings that the players and the staff are divided on the Orton-Tebow matter, which is not exactly conducive to victory. If true, no one will admit it in public at this point.

Denver is also ranked closer to the bottom of the league than the top defensively at 23rd, although much of that is skewed because of last week’s 49-23 blowout at the hands of the Pack.

San Diego, on the other hand, is ranked sixth in the league defensively and seventh offensively, with Rivers having thrown for more than 300 yards per game to lead the way as usual.

I could go on and on with reasons San Diego will beat Denver today.

I won’t and they won’t.

Call it the Cat-Backed-Into-The-Corner Theory.

The Broncos aren’t a scaredy cat, however. They are a desperate cat.

I have noticed over the years of watching NFL football that teams feeling desperation tend to let it all hang out. Denver’s players and coaches know that this game is big in terms of mindset down the road. It also come loom large in terms of future employment.

What could be a huge check mark on the psychological advantage side for Denver’s players and coaches isn’t the only reason I’m thinking the Broncos have a good shot at winning today.

Let’s take a look at what San Diego has done so far this season:

Its one loss came to the Patriots in New England, but everyone but Buffalo loses to New England.

The Chargers’ three wins have come over three teams with a combined win total of ONE, Minnesota, Miami and Kansas City, with the Chiefs having the sole win. Those three teams have been outscored 326-195.

Santa couldn’t have giftwrapped a better schedule for the Chargers.

They haven’t exactly blown those three teams out, either, winning by an average of seven points.

Here’s what happens today:

The Chargers come in a bit cocky and, as mentioned, the Broncos are desperate. Rivers and his offense move the ball when they have it, but without star tight end Anthony Gates and a hobbled star wide receiver in Vincent Jackson — combined with the return of star Denver corner Champ Bailey, the Chargers have a hard time getting the ball into the end zone.

Denver, on the other hand, moves the ball well on the ground behind Willis McGahee’s 130-yard, two-touchdown effort, and Orton manages to hit his new main target, Eric Decker, and his old main target, Brandon Lloyd, one time each for TDs.

That’s it: I’ll take my 3-1 record picking with or against Denver and go out on the long, skinny limb, and say the Broncos win it in wonderful fashion, 31-23.

It only makes sense to prolong THE debate, doesn’t it?


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