DENVER - When the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers meet on Sunday, it would mark 31 days since the Chargers upset the Broncos 27-20 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
As the two teams prepare to battle for the first time in the playoffs, the Broncos (13-3) will not only look for getting revenge against the Chargers, but also revenge for last year’s playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Chargers (10-7) snuck into the playoffs and ran past the Cincinnati Bengals 27-10 in the Wild Card Game last Sunday.
Here are the key matchups to watch for with a spot in the AFC Championship Game on the line.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs Broncos QB Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning makes his 20th playoff start and is looking for his first win against the Chargers in the playoffs. Manning is 0-2 versus San Diego. Philip Rivers hasn’t thrown for over 200 yards against the Broncos in either of the two games this season. Rivers is 6-2 all-time in Denver.
Chargers RB Ryan Matthews vs Broncos DT Terrance Knighton
The key to the Chargers rushing game is on the legs of Ryan Matthews. Matthews carried the ball 29 times for 127 yards and scored a touchdown in the last game against the Broncos. Matthews’ status to play in Sunday’s game is in question as he is banged up with a left ankle injury
Chargers OT D.J. Fluker vs Broncos LB Shaun Phillips
With Von Miller out for the season with a torn ACL, the majority of the Broncos pass rush falls on Shaun Phillips’ shoulders. Phillips beat D.J. Fluker off the line and sacked Philip Rivers in the last game.
Chargers LB Donald Butler vs Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno
Knowshon Moreno only rushed for 83 yards in his two meetings against the Chargers, including 18 yards in the last game. He has a tough matchup against Chargers linebacker Donald Butler who led the team with 12 tackles, including two tackles for loss against the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs Broncos Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen caught only two passes against the Broncos in the last meeting. Those two catches went for touchdowns. Broncos top cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie didn’t play in that game and will be assigned on covering Allen.
Broncos Playoff History
Denver Broncos are 18-17 in the postseason and 13-4 at home. The Broncos last home win was in 2011 against the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23 in overtime. Denver is 2-2 versus AFC West opponents in playoffs. The Broncos haven’t advanced to the AFC Championship Game since 2005.
Broncos: OUT: Derek Wolfe (Illness), Von Miller (knee), Kevin Vickerson (hip)
Chargers: Ryan Matthews (ankle), Nick Hardwick (concussion)
Stats to Know
The Chargers lead the league in 3rd down passing percentage at 49 percent. The Broncos are second at 46.3 percent.
Peyton Manning has 29 career touchdown passes in the playoffs. With a win the Broncos would appear in their 9th AFC Championship Game.
Other Divisional Playoff Games
Saturday: (6) New Orleans Saints vs (1) Seattle Seahawks – 2:35 p.m.
(4) Indianapolis Colts vs (2) New England Patriots – 6:15 p.m.
Sunday: (5) San Francisco 49ers vs (2) Carolina Panthers – 11:05 a.m.