Chargers on offense: It’s kind of hard not to like QB Philip Rivers (OK, Patriots fans and Jay Cutler excluded). The fiery Rivers is very tough (he only looks like a crybaby; he’s really not one), has a strong arm and quick feet. The 6-foot-5-inch, 228-pounder sees the field well and quickly goes through his checks. He’s accurate — even on the run — and doesn’t take a lot gambles. He has a really ugly throwing motion and hasn’t thrown a perfect spiral in forever, but he gets the ball where it needs to be. The man is on a roll right now. Rookie Keenan Allen is a competitive receiver with good speed and strength. Vincent Brown lacks size and speed but has long arms and big, strong hands. Tight end Antonio Gates may have lost a step but he’s still productive (77 receptions). Danny Woodhead (76 receptions) is a versatile little monster who lines up everywhere and just makes plays. Ryan Mathews runs with excellent speed, balance, and agility.
Broncos on defense: Outside linebacker Danny Trevathan has morphed into the leader of this unit. A 6-foot, 237-pound athlete, Trevathan has dogged determination and will make plays from sideline to sideline. He has great vision, lateral movement, and closing speed. Middle linebacker Wesley Woodyard is a tremendous read-and-react player with both quickness and speed. End Shaun Phillips (who cut his teeth as a Chargers linebacker) can still get to the QB (10 sacks). Corners Champ Bailey (he’s still quick) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (he’s still a ballhawk) are confident players.
Broncos on offense: So this guy Peyton Manning is pretty good. Arguably (and Tom Brady is your only real argument) the smartest and most well-prepared QB in league history, Manning is at the helm of the NFL’s most dangerous offense. Manning (6-5, 230) reads defenses (before the snap), adjusts accordingly (he’s a traffic cop), and excels at hitting receivers in stride. It matters little that Manning’s passes wobble; he’s tremendously accurate on short and medium routes and can still hit the long ball (though not the way he used to). The receiving trio of Demaryius Thomas (he has size and strength), Eric Decker (he’s big and physical), and Wes Welker (I think you know his record) combined for 252 catches. Athletic tight end Julius Thomas added 65. Knowshon Moreno has avoided injuries and become a bullish tailback who hits the hole with authority.
Chargers on defense: Free safety Eric Weddle is always around the ball. He can stay in coverage and blanket receivers and he can stay closer to the box and provide tough run support. Inside linebackers Donald Butler and Manti Te’o are instinctive and athletic. They will slide through blockers and explode into ball carriers.
Special teams: San Diego’s Danny Woodhead (kickoffs) and Eddie Royal (punts) are quality return men . . . Denver’s Trindon Holliday is a superb returner and has brought one of each back for TDs this season . . . Broncos kicker Matt Prater had a 64-yard FG this season.
Miscellany: San Diego won, 27-20, in Denver Dec. 12 . . . Manning is 9-11 in the playoffs . . . Rivers’s playoff mark is 4-4.