Thursday night throwing fest on deck?

The Thursday night showdown between the Broncos and Chargers at Mile High Stadium (sponsorship withstanding) could see passing yardage a half mile long. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers are at the top of the NFL in numerous categories.

Most of the NFL-watching world will be focused on Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers in Thursday night’s AFC West showdown, and the game could be a high-scoring affair.

Manning and Rivers are a huge part of their teams’ success to date as the 5-1 Broncos look to extend their half-game lead over the 5-2 Chargers, but the two teams are also the best at converting in the red zone.

In fact, the Broncos are best in the league at converting trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns and the Chargers are second.

The Broncos have scored touchdowns in 15 of 19 trips into the red zone, an NFL-best 78.9 conversion rate, adding four field goals when they didn’t score touchdowns. The Chargers have been nearly as good, scoring on 25 of their red zone trips – 14 touchdowns and 11 field goals.

The Broncos, Chargers and Seahawks are the only three teams to have scored every time they have reached the red zone this season.

Since 2012, when Manning joined the Broncos, they have scored 105 touchdowns in 152 trips into the red zone, an NFL-best .691 conversion rate.

“It’s Peyton,” Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib says, matter-of-factly.

Since 2012, the New Orleans Saints are second at converting red zone trips into touchdowns at .623, followed by the Cincinnati Bengals (.617), the New England Patriots (.616) and the Dallas Cowboys (.613).

The Broncos’ success in the red zone has them tied for third with 25 touchdowns overall. The Chargers aren’t too far behind at 20 touchdowns overall.

Denver has two players dominating the touchdown receptions. WR Demaryius Thomas has six touchdown receptions and TE Julius Thomas has nine. No other Bronco has more than two touchdown receptions.

San Diego, meanwhile, is led by TE Antonio Gates, who has seven touchdown receptions, and WR Eddie Royal, who has five. However, the Chargers only have three rushing touchdowns.

If figures that San Diego and Denver would be pretty good in their passing attacks overall, and they are. The Broncos have the third-best passing offense (measured by yards) and the Chargers are sixth.

If Manning throws two touchdowns on Thursday, he would be become the first player in NFL history with two separate streaks of 12 straight regular-season games throwing two touchdowns or more. He also did that in 2004 with the Indianapolis Colts, when he finished the season with 46 passing touchdowns and was named the NFL MVP.

The Manning-Rivers battle should be a delight for aerial aficionados. Consider the following:

  • Manning has a completion percentage of 68.7, second-best among league qualifiers, and Rivers is at 67.4 percent, fifth in the NFL.

  • Manning leads the league with a 118.2 passer rating; Rivers is third at 113.0.

  • Manning is tied for second with 17 pass plays of 25 yards or more; Rivers is fourth with 16.

  • Manning is best with 8.8 percent of his passes going for touchdowns (19 of 217) and Rivers is third at 7.4 percent (17 of 230).

  • Rivers is eighth with a 1.3 interception percentage among qualifiers and Manning is ninth at 1.4 percent.

    What else are the Broncos and Chargers good at?

  • Broncos LB Von Miller leads the league with eight sacks.

  • Broncos CB %%MATCH_15%% is tied for fourth with 10 passes defensed.

  • Demaryius Thomas leads the league by averaging 110.3 receiving yards per game and is sixth in the league with 39 receptions (the Broncos already had their bye) and fourth with 341 yards after the catch. He is also second with eight pass plays of 25 yards or more.

  • Chargers WR Malcolm Floyd is first in the league averaging 20.60 yards per catch. Floyd is tied for seventh with five pass plays of 25 yards or more.

  • Julius Thomas has 21 first downs on 36 targets for a 58.3 percentage, second-best in the league, and is tied for first in the league with 10 receptions in the red zone.

  • Chargers RB %%MATCH_14%% has 316 yards rushing, but he isn’t stuffed very often. In 72 carries he has been dropped for no gain or a loss only four times, a percentage of 0.56 that is tied for ninth in the league.

    Offensively, and especially in the passing game, the Broncos and Chargers both shine.

    Defensively, they are both very good, too. The Chargers have the fifth-ranked defense – 13th against the run and third against the pass – and the Broncos have the sixth-ranked defense – third against the run and 18th against the pass.

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