Chargers Hashmarks: Can San Diego beat Denver?

Victory against one Manning brother happened Sunday.

Victory against a second Manning brother is the hope for Thursday.

The Chargers will play the Denver Broncos Thursday night, just four days after dominating the New York Giants at Qualcomm Stadium. The matchup presents a number of challenges -- short week, altitude and facing an 11-2 team, to name a few.

"We are playing the number one offense in the National Football League on the road in a short week," said defensive coordinator John Pagano. "I think that is as big a challenge as it gets. Their receivers are the best. They have a great quarterback. They have great runners. Their offensive line plays at a high level. When you look at the categories, they are number one in everything. We will make sure we show up."

At stake is a possible wild card spot. Win and you have a chance. Lose, and you're out of the running.

"It will be fun," said wide receiver Eddie Royal. "I think that's why you play this game, for these types of opportunities, to play against one of the best teams in the league, in a prime time game. We're all excited for it."

Health Helps

The Chargers practiced Tuesday with a full 53, although Nick Hardwick (neck), Shareece Wright (foot), Johnny Patrick (ankle) and Eddie Royal (toe) were limited.

Still, in a short week, health matters.

"The last couple weeks, coming out of games, we have been fairly healthy," said head coach Mike McCoy. "Every game you are going to have some dings, but nothing serious. It's been a good couple of weeks for us."

Although Royal has played in games, this was his first time practicing since October, when he suffered turf toe against the Colts.

"It's been awhile," he said Tuesday after practice. "It was good just to be with those guys in the huddle, even if it's just practice."

Peyton Punishing

Peyton Manning is having a much better season than his brother, Eli. The Denver QB has thrown for a franchise-record 45 touchdowns so far this season. He's racked up 4,522 yards and has a quarterback rating of 114.5.

Said McCoy: "He is one of the best quarterbacks of all time to play the game. His name in the NFL speaks for itself. He's one of the greatest players of all time. He's a great competitor."

Denver's offense leads the league in just about every category.

"It's amazing what they've been able to do," Royal said. "Putting up as many points as they do, being as explosive as they are. It puts a challenge on us as an offense, to be able to put up points and keep them off the field."

Familiar Foes

The reprieve of playing two games in five days might be found in familiarity, said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

"I would say more than anything on the short week is that at least we have a familiar opponent, which is the same for them as well, but it’s not a team we play once every four years," he said.
"Had it been an NFC team, it would have been just a little more difficult preparation wise.

"It’s still a mental grind because you’ve got to shift gears, put in a whole new plan and go in a matter of two days, especially when you’re going on the road. We haven’t been on the road in a Thursday night game since 2009 when we played Christmas night in Tennessee. So the fact that we fly out of here in less than 24 hours is a little bit even more of a challenge. But it’s one that we have and we have to step up to.”

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