Monday's Matchups to Watch

The Chargers look to get the bad taste of Sunday's loss out of their mouths with a win against their primary threat for the AFC West title, the Broncos. A win would be the Bolts' third victory inside the division and would put them in great position heading into the bye. To set the stage for this pivotal contest, we break down a handful of the game's most pivotal matchups.

ILBs Takeo Spikes, Donald Butler vs. QB Peyton Manning, RB Willis McGahee

The Chargers have won five of their last six matchups against Manning and their inside linebackers have been a big reason why. In the past it was Stephen Cooper going check for check with Manning and getting the defense into the correct play. That now falls on 15-year veteran and defensive captain Spikes.

Another key to San Diego's success is making Manning's offense one-dimensional. That means loading up to shut down McGahee, who ranks No. 12 in rushing yards with 376. He rushed for 242 yards in two games against the Chargers last year, so Butler & Co. must step up to stop Denver's offense from being a double-edged sword.

LT Jared Gaither vs. DE Elvis Dumervil; OLB Melvin Ingram vs. LT Ryan Clady

Both teams' left tackles face stiff challenges this week; whichever one performs better will give his team a sizable advantage.

Gaither has struggled since rushing back from a back injury. He has allowed three sacks through two games after allowing none in five games as a Charger in 2011. He faces his biggest challenge yet this week in Dumervil, who has 12.5 sacks since the start of the 2011 season. Dumervil is a speed rusher with a dangerous inside spin move, a tough matchup for Gaither, who is still working on his conditioning.

Clady goes against a highly motivated Ingram, who's roughing-the-passer penalty last week cost the Chargers a chance at a 4-1 start. Ingram is still seeking his first sack and would love nothing more than for that redemption to come in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. He goes against Clady, who is also motivated since he is in a contract year. Clady has yet to allow a sack this season.

WRs Malcom Floyd, Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal vs CBs Champ Bailey, Tracy Porter and Tony Carter

Floyd is off to an incredible start, on pace to finish with career highs for 64 catches and 1,145 yards. He is Philip Rivers' go-to target in a rebuilt wide receiver corps. Meachem finally showed signs of life against his former team in Week 5, taking two of his three receptions to pay dirt. The hope is that a matchup against his former team will do equally good things for Royal, who has just 11 catches for 76 yards.

Denver's secondary is anchored by all-time great Bailey and Super Bowl XLIV hero Porter. While Bailey is the better player, Porter is the bigger concern because of his willingness to jump routes. That must give pause to Rivers, who seems to make at least one baffling throw per game. The Chargers are 3-0 when Rivers turns it over one time or less, 0-2 when he turns it over two times or more. Denver's pass defense is ranked No. 11 but has only intercepted two passes so far this season.

How will the AFC West play out in Week 6? Talk about it in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by
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