Denver's clubhouse leaders are too savvy to let the team getting carried away after its strong start. The Broncos know two things for certain: 1) the Chargers are better than the Raiders; and 2) the Chargers are better than they showed in Week 1.
"It wasn't San Diego's normal game," Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan said. "They didn't play like they normally play. We know we are going to get their best shot. That was something that I have not seen before, them giving up 250 yards in a half. They just didn't play at the level they normally play. They've got 10 Pro Bowl players on that team from a year before. They've got the same team and the same scheme."
Of course, there are a couple of prominent personnel changes working in Denver's favor. For one, the Broncos get back WR Brandon Marshall from his one-game suspension. Marshall finished No. 5 in the NFL last season with 102 catches, with 13 of those coming in two games against the Chargers.
WR Brandon Marshall
"[Royal] will take pressure off of me," Marshall said. "From now on, every team will play fair. They will not be able to roll double coverage on my side to cover me. If they go cover-2, we are going to pound the ball."
The other personnel change of note is the loss of three-time Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman, who was placed on the injured-reserve list as he prepares for reconstructive surgery on his left knee. Merriman started four games against the Broncos during his career, netting three sacks in that span.
Merriman will be replaced in the starting lineup by Jyles Tucker. Four-year veteran Marques Harris becomes the top backup, a role he held for most of last season, while first-year player Antwan Applewhite could play on special teams after being called up from the practice squad on Wednesday.
"You don't want to have to lose a guy like [Merriman] for the entire season, but it is tough," Broncos QB Jay Cutler said. "[The Chargers] are a good team and they have a lot of leaders on their team, so I am sure they'll bounce back."
With Marshall in and Merriman out, the Broncos have a golden opportunity to seize control of the AFC West. With a win, Denver will boast a 2-0 division record and a two-game advantage over the Chargers.
However, the Broncos are not counting their wins before they hatch.
"[The Chargers] are the best in the AFC West and have been for the past couple of years," Cutler said. "They definitely owned us at their place and at our place, so it is going to be a big test for us. They are talented across the board and they have been winning longer than we have. Some of the younger guys here, including me, are 0-4 against them."
The Chargers need nothing more than to run that streak to 0-5.
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.