1. Why did the Broncos lose to the Chargers last month and does that game mean anything in relation to Sunday's playoff game?
Of all of the three losses Denver incurred this season, the one against the Chargers was the most unique. The Broncos committed a combined total of seven turnovers against the Colts and Patriots. Despite those egregious errors, they were in each of those games until the very end. The loss against the Chargers involved only one turnover (although at a costly time) and the Broncos struggled the entire game.
What was different? Well, Mike McCoy cooked up the perfect game plan. Keep the ball away from Manning. The time of possession in that game was absolutely lopsided (38:49 to 21:11). To make matters even worse the Broncos were plagued with a sequence of three and outs. The offense was stagnant, which a bit can be attributed to a hobbled Julius Thomas and a concussed Wes Welker. However, San Diego's special teams unit helped promote the stagnant offense as well. They consistently pinned the Broncos deep in their own territory, starting all of their drives off punts inside the 15 (two of which started inside the 10).
So, in short, the Chargers are a team that matches up well against the Broncos due to their ability the control the clock (best in the league). They executed a strong game plan that exploited this match up and made plays when they needed to.
2. How big of a blow to the Broncos' defense is Von Miller's injury?
It's huge. It's not secret that the Broncos are not very strong on defense this year. Having your best defensive player out of the lineup is going to hurt. The Broncos defense can play well enough without Miller, they did win six straight games without him. Where the problem lies is that they lose a player who creates big plays. Miller has a knack for strip sacks and nose of the end zone, which will be missed this post-season.
Another characteristic Miller brings to the defense is that improves the play of those around him. Miller can demand double teams which will obviously free up someone like Shaun Phillips to cause havoc in the backfield. When Miller is playing his best the secondary looks a lot better as well. It's much easier to cover a receiver when the quarterback can't even get the ball out of his hands.
3. Seeing as how the Broncos offense has seemingly gotten better this year, do you think Mike McCoy deserves any credit for last year's success in Denver?
Absolutely. Mike McCoy was a phenomenal offensive coordinator during his time here in Denver. There's always going to be jokes towards the offensive coordinator on a Peyton Manning quarterbacked team. People seem to forget about McCoy's resume before Peyton came to town. McCoy was the offensive coordinator for Tim Tebow. When Tebow was the starting quarterback here, the Broncos had to completely retool the offense to fit his skill set. It takes a talented coach to successfully install a new offense almost halfway through the season.
Even before McCoy was in Denver, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Panthers. In 2007 the Panthers became the first team to win one game with four different starting quarterbacks. Mike McCoy will get the best out of all of his players whether it's Peyton Manning, Matt Moore, or even Tim Tebow.
4. What will the weather be like on Sunday, and how do you expect it to affect the game?
Denver has fortunately not been affected by the historic chill that has plagued the Mid-West and East Coast. As a Denver resident I can tell you that the weather has been pretty nice when the sun is out. The anticipated high for the day of the game is 47 degrees. In Colorado, anything about 45 degrees is shorts weather as long as it's sunny. If the weather doesn't change too drastically before the game it really shouldn't be any excuse for anyone's performance. However, there is a saying about the weather in Colorado. If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes. I've woken up to snow on the ground only to see it all melt away when it thermometer hits 70 degrees. Anything is possible here.
5. What is your prediction for the game?
This will game be no easy task for either team. Philip Rivers has been having his best year as a pro, in my opinion. Ryan Matthews has been playing at a high level and Keenan Allen is the real deal. I fully expect to see Allen have great stats on Sunday. It will be the job of the Bronco defense to make sure that the Chargers just don't take up six to eight minutes on every drive.
The Charger defense will have a much harder time containing this offense than they did with the Bengals. Cincinnati was determined to throw the ball down field despite San Diego's dominance in the pass rush. If the Bengals were smart, they would have used Giovanni Bernard much more in the screen game. If the Chargers think they can consistently blitz with Manning they'll have to pay with long screens from Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas.
Prepare your nerves. This game is going to go down to the wire. The Chargers are the obvious underdog here, but they have the game plan to beat Denver. This game will be all about turnovers and third down conversions. The Broncos only completed 22% of their third downs in their last meeting with the Chargers. If the Broncos can minimize their mistakes and convert on third down they should win, which I expect them to do.
Thank you, MrEast, for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck this weekend.