SERIES HISTORY: 113th regular-season meeting. Broncos lead series, 62-49-1. Denver has won five straight. The most historic meeting between the two teams was on Dec. 17, 1979, when the Chargers turned back the Broncos 17-7 in the final game of the regular season to prevent the Broncos from winning their third consecutive AFC West title, consigning them to a wild-card game they lost at Houston six days later.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
Kubiak has medical issues, and he will be replaced Thursday night by specials teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, whose closest relationship to being an NFL head coach previously was as the son-in-law of Dan Reeves, a four-time Super Bowl head coach.
McCoy's issues include his team losing 16 of its past 21 games, and 11 straight in the rugged AFC West. And the Broncos arrive with a 15-game road winning streak.
The Chargers, who blew fourth-quarter leads four times already this season, feature their great QB Philip Rivers against the Broncos' malicious defense and the Super Bowl MVP, pass-rush demon Von Miller.
However, the Broncos are anything but settled at quarterback with erstwhile starter Trevor Siemian coming off an injured shoulder and his replacement, Paxton Lynch, coming off a performance in which he looked every bit the rookie he is, albeit a talented rookie. Siemian practiced Tuesday and said he expects to be ready. DeCamillis said the medical staff would have key input. Convenient, coach.
Regardless what the coaches or medics say, the biggest key for both teams may be protecting the quarterback. Denver unleashes the best established pass rusher in Miller, and the Chargers hope to keep Denver QBs dancing with newly unveiled DE Joey Bosa, who had two sacks last week vs. the Oakland Raiders in his NFL debut.
Multiple outlets are reporting Trevor Siemian is back in the starting lineup for the Denver Broncos.
The second-year quarterback piloted the Broncos to a 4-0 start but was injured in the first half of Denver's Week 4 visit to Tampa Bay.
Siemian said last week he expected to start, but was inactive as rookie first-round pick Paxton Lynch made his starting debut, going 23 of 35 or 223 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked six times after the Broncos allowed only four sacks in the first four games.
Fox Sports' Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Siemian's injury is a Grade 3 AC joint sprain.
"I'll take it one day at a time and get right (Monday) and 'Greek' (trainer Steve Antonopulos) will have me doing some stuff, I'm sure," Siemian said after the Sunday game.
But he practiced Monday and was back on the field Wednesday before the Broncos bolted for San Diego.
Siemian has a 99.6 passer rating for the season.
"He's very close," Kubiak said. "He did everything he could for us all week long, but we had to make a decision that at the end of the week, when it's time to go, he tried to get there. He worked extremely hard to get there. We just didn't think he was ready."
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Broncos' offensive line vs. Chargers DE Joey Bosa. Bosa made a big impression last Sunday in his regular-season debut, sacking Oakland QB Derek Carr twice and racking up five total tackles despite not starting. He could create a problem for a Denver offensive line that has conceded 10 sacks the past two weeks, including six against the Falcons last Sunday. Denver should get Donald Stephenson back at right tackle, which would help the cause, but Bosa has a high motor and persistence that could cause problems if the Broncos' quarterbacks hold the ball a bit too long.
--Broncos OLBs Von Miller and Shane Ray vs. Chargers OTs King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale. In 10 career games against QB Philip Rivers and the Chargers, Miller has 11 sacks, and he comes into the game with 6.5 sacks this season, 12 sacks in his past nine games and 18.5 sacks in his past 15 games. Ray has four sacks this season, and he and Miller each posted a sack of Falcons QB Matt Ryan last Sunday. The Chargers have allowed one sack every 16.7 pass plays, which puts them right at the league average.
Both punters. Broncos punter Riley Dixon is off to a solid start in his first five games. After beating out incumbent Britton Colquitt, Dixon has a net average of 42.1 yards (11th in NFL) that is 1.4 yards better than that of Colquitt, now with the Cleveland Browns. ... Conversely, Chargers rookie punter Drew Kaser is struggling big time. Through five games, he has two critical poor punts at crucial junctures, and in last weekend's loss to the Raiders, he bungled the snap on a potential game-tying field goal in the final moments.
Broncos CB Aqib Talib has three interceptions in four games, including one pick-six. He has nine career INT-TDs, tied for fourth in NFL history.
Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has eight touchdowns (seven rushing, one receiving) in the past 10 games. He rushed for 95 yards and a TD in the teams' last meeting.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers aims for a fourth consecutive game passing for more than 300 yards. He threw for 359 yards and four TDs vs. the Raiders on Sunday.
San Diego's Antonio Gates ranks second in NFL history among tight ends with 106 receiving TDs. Four came in his past four games vs. the Broncos.
PREDICTION: This series and these Chargers are overdue for an upset if the best QB in the competitive AFC West can get some time to do his job.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 24-17.