Broncos at Chargers walkthrough

This is the 84th meeting between the Broncos and Chargers. The Denver Broncos lead the San Diego Chargers 51-31-1. The Chargers lost 20-17 earlier this season at Denver. Last year at Qualcomm Stadium, Jake Plummer threw four interceptions and San Diego won, a pivotal game in the Chargers' AFC West championship season.

With the No. 2 seed in the AFC locked up, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan admitted he will rest several key players including MLB Al Wilson and RB Mike Anderson.

The question is, do the Chargers have enough pride to take advantage despite being knocked out of the playoff race last weekend?

The Broncos want to prove they can run the ball against the Chargers' top-ranked 3-4 run defense, especially with Pittsburgh a possible playoff opponent. But mostly, Shanahan wants to get his guys enough work to stay in the groove and then get them out of the game.

The Chargers need a victory to secure a winning home record, but the offense has been inconsistent at best with RB LaDainian Tomlinson battling a rib injury over the past month. He's expected to play Saturday, but backup Michael Turner could see significant snaps as well.

2005 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 5th (2nd rush, 14th pass); defense 16th (3rd rush, 29th pass). Chargers: offense 8th (8th rush, 11th pass); defense 13th (1st rush, 30th pass)

FAST FACTS:
Broncos: RB Tatum Bell needs 131 yards to join Anderson as the first teammates with 1,000 rushing yards in the same season since Cleveland's Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner in 1995. Anderson tied an NFL record by going five years between 1,000-yard rushing seasons (2000-05). Lead the series 51-39-1.

Chargers: Tomlinson has gone four games without rushing for at least 100 yards or scoring a rushing touchdown.

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Broncos:

Keith Burns likely will start in Al Wilson's place at middle linebacker this week. Wilson will miss the game with a broken thumb. Burns is Denver's best special teams player but has rarely played on defense.

Louis Green could see some playing time on defense. He is a solid special teams player, and with Al Wilson out of the lineup, he could get some time at outside linebacker against San Diego.

Ian Gold was added to the injury report with a groin strain. Gold could get an early hook against San Diego because the Broncos can't improve their playoff seed.

Ebenezer Ekuban will start in place of Courtney Brown, who is out with shoulder and knee injuries. Ekuban has played well off the bench all season, mostly in pass-rushing situations.

Tom Nalen and the rest of the offensive line can't expect to get too much rest this week. The Broncos have only two backup offensive linemen on the roster, so they can't substitute very liberally on the line. If anyone gets an early rest, it probably will be Nalen, 34. Ben Hamilton could slide over to center.

Chargers:

Terrence Kiel (ankle) has been placed on injured reserve. Clinton Hart replaces him in the starting lineup.

Igor Olshansky (quadriceps) didn't practice Thursday and will be a game-time decision. He would be replaced by DeQuincy Scott.

Jamal Williams (foot) didn't practice Thursday and will be a game-time decision.

Bhawoh Jue (knee) didn't practice Thursday and said he will not play. Veteran Jerry Wilson replaces him.

Markus Curry, a rookie out of Michigan, was signed to take the roster spot of SS Terrence Kiel (ankle).

LaDainian Tomlinson needs one touchdown to set the team's single-season record at 20. He is tied with Chuck Muncie. Tomlinson's bruised chest still bothers him, but he's intent on finishing on a high note.

PREDICTION: Chargers 20-17


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