UPDATE 2- TE Antonio Gates will not play, nor will Ryan Mathews.
Here are the Charger injuries so far
|Malcom Floyd||WR||Hamstring||Full Participation
|Nate Kaeding||K||Manhood||Full Participation||Probable|
|Brandon Siler||ILB||Foot||Full Participation||Probable|
Denver's Injury report is much shorter
Eddie Royal suffered a setback with a hamstring strain, and is officially questionable. He will probably play, but the speedy returner may not be 100% come game time. This is good news as he's been trouble for the special teams unit in the past.
Goodman and Ayers didn't play last game for Denver, and it isn't looking so good for Ayers come Monday night. Neither of those players are significant to the Bronco Defense for two reasons. They've been ineffective, and they have to face Philip Rivers. Robert Ayers is nowhere near as good as Elvis Dumervil, and Darcel McBath is nowhere near Brian Dawkins, so their time is usually of the breather variety for the starters.
What do the Charger injuries mean for the gameplan? Kyle Orton, as John Gennaro pointed out, should be "feared" because of how great he's played the Quarterback position this year. While I think it is a stretch to have such a high opinion of sir Neckbeard, he is trailing Rivers closely as far as stats are concerned. However, Rivers is the type of quarterback that routinely makes cornerbacks, linebackers and safeties look like Lot's wife when he makes a throw to anybody who decides to put on a uniform with an "eligible receiver" number on the back and an unpronounceable name (optional). He is the quarterback who shall be feared. After all, he's put up brilliantly consistent production with little more than a practice squad worth of players. But with so much hype about a possible 800 combined passing yard day, can Orton put up the 500 yards necessary for a game like that to happen? Is the Charger defense really going to have their worst showing (yards-wise) this year?
The easiest way to keep Orton off the field is to run the clock with a running game. As has been the case on numerous occasions this year, rookie RB Ryan Mathews has been dealing with injuries. Although he may suit up and play, there is an equal if not greater probability that the Rocket Hog (as I call him for obvious reasons) Mike Tolbert will take over and run over a soft Bronco Defense that has characteristically been an Orange Mush by allowing a 30th ranked 143 rushing yards per game. However, there will also be an increased load on Darren Sproles, which he can handle, and Jacob Hester as well. With both Hester and Tolbert used to special teams duty, will they hold up against the Bronco's special teams attack if they are used more in the offensive gameplan? Hopefully, they can. With all-world TE Antonio Gates possibly not playing, establishing the running game and keeping the Charger Defense fresh and rested to stop the (h)air Orton show will be a top priority.
The Bronco's have been susceptible to play-action this year, and with Malcom Floyd returning from his hamstring injury, Rivers will now have a kill shot available throughout the game, assuming Floyd doesn't aggravate his injury. Against a relatively weak Bronco defense, putting up points should be no issue for Norv Turner's offense. Ron Rivera's defense, however, needs to bring their A game.
The loss of Brandon Siler has been felt thoroughly. The 3 worst games this run defense has had this year, Siler has been injured, leaving Kevin Burnett and Stephen Cooper to play all game and try to do what he's so good at. I've already pointed out that Burnett's only weakness is playing the run, but with Denver having such a weak rushing attack, it may not matter. As long as Siler can play good coverage during intermediate routes and against tight ends, the Charger defense won't need to do anything special to stop the run than what they've done all year. When they do run, it needs to be stufffed. The last thing Ron Rivera wants is to keep Eric Weddle playing in the box with Brandon Lloyd, arguably the leagues best deep threat, sprinting down the sideline on play-action.
This defense seems to play better with Steve Gregory in the mix, and if he can play at 100%, it will be a big help to the corners and linebackers equally. Travis Johnson is playing well, and has been very good at giving Castillo, Cesaire and Garay a spell. He should get plenty of opportunities to rush Kyle Orton, as well as stuff run plays. Overall, the defense has been fantastic this year, getting better and better since 2008 when Rivera took over halfway through the season. As long as they don't have any breakdowns or slip ups like the 2 against Tennessee and Houston, Orton shouldn't hit his normal 300 yard average, and the Bronco run offense should produce no more than 3.5 yards per carry
Finally, special teams. Nate Kaeding seems to be doing fine now, so while Kris Brown may still be on the roster come game day, Kaeding should have his life back to normal. If Tolbert and Hester can play special teams without being any less fresh than usual, Eddie Royal won't do what he did last year (hopefully). In conclusion, with Malcom Floyd coming back to make up for a possibly absent Antonio Gates, Rivers should still have a 300 yard game and the defense should hold the Broncos to 23 points and never threaten the 34 Norv Turners offense scores.