AFC West: Matt Willis
The Denver Broncos have been a good second-half team this year. They’ll need to be Monday night.
In a crucial AFC West game, it has been all San Diego. The Chargers have turned two Denver miscues into a huge lead.
Denver lost a punt and a kickoff inside its own 20 and Philip Rivers has hit Antonio Gates for two touchdowns.
Add an 80-yard interception return by San Diego cornerback Quentin Jammer on a play when receiver Matt Willis failed to run the correct route and this game is a rout.
All four of Peyton Manning’s interceptions this season have come on “Monday Night Football.”
Unless the Broncos can complete a comeback, San Diego will improve to 4-2 and have a two-game lead over Denver in the division. If Denver is going to come back, the mistakes must halt.
Denver is also without receiver Eddie Royal. He will miss his second straight game with neck and head injuries. Denver’s healthy receivers are Jabar Gaffney, Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd and Matt Willis, who was promoted from the practice squad Saturday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Denver quarterback Jay Cutler told reporters Monday, a day after the Broncos lost in San Diego to complete their three-week collapse in the AFC West, that he expects Denver to end a three-year playoff drought next season.
"Yes, I do. I think with (head coach) Mike (Shanahan) and the front office, they are going to make some moves and try to improve us as a whole team," Cutler said. "I love the direction the offense is going with Jeremy (Bates) leading us, the coaching, the offensive line and the receivers. I think we have a real chance next year."
The Broncos need to make some defensive improvements. But the team has to get over the hangover from their collapse first.
The letdown did have a silver lining for Denver. It is now picking 12th in the April draft. It is the same slot in which Denver drafted star left tackle Ryan Clady earlier this year.
Denver will look at defense next spring with linebackers Rey Maualuga (USC) and James Laurinaitis (Ohio State), defensive tackle B.J. Raji (Boston College) and safety Taylor Mays (USC) as early possibilities.
Denver signed the following six practice squad players to future contracts: defensive tackle Matthias Askew, guard Mitch Erickson, wide receiver Jayson Foster, defensive tackle Ryan McBean, cornerback Rashod Moulton and wide receiver Matt Willis.
Here are Denver's home and away opponents for 2009. The dates will be announced in the spring:
Home: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants.
Away: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
- For those Chargers fans who are upset San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers didn't make the Pro Bowl, stay patient. His trip to Hawaii may be imminent. With Jets quarterback Brett Favre talking about his shoulder injury; it may just be a matter of time before Favre bows out of the Pro Bowl. Favre usually bails out of the Pro Bowl. Rivers is the first alternate and will go to the Pro Bowl if someone withdraws.
- ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported this week that Arizona offensive coordinator Todd Haley could be on the Raiders' list of potential coaching candidates. Haley certainly fits the criteria. He is a young and offensive-minded coach. Other potential candidates could include Jim Fassel, Dennis Green, Kevin Gilbride and Jim Haslett.
- The Raiders, who end their season at Tampa Bay, have lost five straight season finales. They are tied with Buffalo for the second longest streak. Dallas has lost eight straight season enders.
- Denver tight end Nate Jackson is getting into the music business in the offseason. Jackson is a lead singer in a band.
- A San Diego linebacker got the Denver rivalry cooking by calling Denver quarterback Jay Cutler "a punk."
- Here is what Cutler had to say today, via the Broncos' PR department, about his expected reception in San Diego on Sunday: "It probably won't be pleasant. I don't think it is going to be with the holiday spirit at all. I don't think they like me, which is fine. It adds to the game, the excitement and the rivalry with us. It is going to be a good one. I think these two teams probably dislike each other. I know our offense probably doesn't like their defense and probably vice-versa. I think it is becoming a good rivalry between us. We are both younger teams and they are playing really well right now. Philip (Rivers) is playing well, and it is going to be a good matchup."
- Still, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, who has a well-documented rivalry with Cutler, downplayed any issue with Cutler in a quote courtesy of the Chargers' PR department: "No, there really isn't. It got a lot of attention about a year ago actually, but there's really nothing there."
- Also, courtesy of the Chargers' PR department, San Diego star running back LaDainian Tomlinson's thoughts on official Ed Hochuli and his role in Denver's controversial win over San Diego in Week 2: "I think he'd rather be part of it, refereeing in it. But no, I think Ed, I really believe that he's probably happy that this is a game that's going to mean something, that whatever happened at the beginning of the year, it doesn't mean anything now. I really believe that's the way he feels."
- Former Raiders coach Jon Gruden didn't talk badly about his time in Oakland with Bay Area reporters Wednesday.
- Denver signed running back Steve Baylark and receiver Matt Willis to the practice squad.
- Kansas City coach Herman Edwards says the Chiefs will be competitive in 2009. The real question is will Edwards be in Kansas City to see the improvement?