Game Scout: Chargers at Broncos
San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2)
Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver - TV: NFL Network
*TV announcers: Brad Nessler, Mike Mayock, Alex Flanagan
*Keys to the game: The Chargers' most complete game of the season Sunday prompted coach Mike McCoy to proclaim his team was ready to travel to Denver and beat the Broncos. San Diego is highly inconsistent, but does sport road wins over Philadelphia and Kansas City and can keep pace in Denver by peppering the Broncos' 29th-ranked pass defense. QB Philip Rivers has been feasting on short drops and getting rid of the ball, and it has been open season on Denver's secondary when the pass rush doesn't get home. The Chargers dominated time of possession in the first meeting - 38:03 to 21:57 - but fell 28-20 at home in Week 10 after settling for a pair of field goals in the first half. Denver can strike fast, and has the bonus of playing at home on a short week in high altitude. QB Peyton Manning will be without WR Wes Welker (concussion), but the Chargers had no answer for WR Demaryius Thomas (seven catches, 108 yards, 3 TDs) in the first meeting. Denver also has developed a solid 1-2 punch in RBs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball, who can do some work against a Chargers defense allowing 4.8 yards per carry.
*Matchup to watch - Chargers OLB Jarret Johnson vs. Broncos LT Chris Clark: Manning gets rid of the ball quickly, but the Chargers must find a way to take advantage of Clark and create plays off Manning's blind side. Johnson returned last week after missing two games to post two tackles, one for a loss. Melvin Ingram is also in line for increased snaps after seeing his first game action of the season last Sunday.
*Player spotlight - Broncos S Omar Bolden: He played 82 percent of the snaps last week, largely supplanting rookie Duke Ihenacho in the base defense. Bolden converted from cornerback late in the preseason.
*Fast facts: WR Keenan Allen has set a Chargers rookie record with 61 receptions, passing LaDainian Tomlinson's previous mark of 59 in 2001. ... McCoy was the Broncos' offensive coordinator last season. ... The Broncos are the fifth team in history to score 50-plus points three times in one season.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
The Chargers are coming off their most complete performance of the season, a shellacking the Giants, and they're still in the playoff hunt. Denver's defense is a mounting concern for the Broncos, but QB Peyton Manning continues to keep the foot on the gas to simply outscore all challengers.
*Our pick: Broncos 38-30