Broncos, Chargers face tough road tests in bid for postseason

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The Denver Broncos travel north by northeast to Buffalo as they try to bounce back from a home loss to New England and keep their playoff quest on track.

The Chargers set up shop in the Motor City shooting for their fourth straight win.

The Philadelphia Eagles' playoff chances are awfully slim, but a win in Dallas Saturday would secure a season sweep of their NFC East rivals and perhaps go a long way toward saving Andy Reid's job.

Finally, Jim Harbaugh pays a holiday visit to his good friend Pete Carroll when the 49ers take on the Seahawks in Seattle.

The Eagles, Broncos, Chargers and 49ers are in good position this week to get difficult road victories based on matchups, injuries, history and other circumstances.

Denver at Buffalo (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)

Venue: Ralph Wilson Stadium

Last time at site: Jason Elam converted a 42-yard field goal as time expired, giving Denver a 15-14 victory in Week 1 of the 2007 season.

Reason for road optimism: If the Broncos win this game and the Raiders lose in Kansas City, Denver will clinch the AFC West title. Buffalo has lost seven straight after starting 5-2, and are without offensive MVP Fred Jackson (who was averaging 101.9 yards per game rushing) for the rest of the year. The Broncos have won five of the last six meetings between these teams, including three straight in Buffalo. Denver RB Willis McGahee is tied for the league lead with six 100-plus-yard rushing games this season, and McGahee will have some extra motivation going against the team that drafted him and employed him for four years, but traded him to Baltimore. The Broncos get after the quarterback as well as any team in the league, while the Bills are last in the NFL in sacks with 21.

San Francisco at Seattle (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET)

Venue: CenturyLink Field

Last time at site: Pete Carroll's return to the NFL after 11 years was a rousing success, as the Seahawks routed the 49ers, 31-6, in Week 1 of the 2010 season.

Reason for road optimism: Seattle is one of the hottest teams in the league, and very tough to beat at home, but San Francisco needs to keep winning to edge out the Saints for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs ( playoff picture | clinching scenarios). The 49ers are trying to go an entire regular season without surrendering a rushing touchdown, a mark the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch will put to the test -- he's scored a touchdown in 10 straight games. Overall, the 49ers lead the league in scoring defense, giving up only 13.2 points per game. Seattle has gotten by with a patchwork offensive line lately, but against San Francisco's pass rush, led by Aldon Smith (13 sacks) and Justin Smith (6.5 sacks), that luck should run out.

Philadelphia at Dallas (Saturday, 4:15 p.m. ET)

Venue: Cowboys Stadium

Last time at site: DeSean Jackson had 210 receiving yards for the Eagles, who hung on for a 30-27 victory in Week 14 of the 2010 season.

Reason for road optimism: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said this week that after the Eagles' 34-7 victory in these teams' first meeting, he's afraid of Philadelphia. He's got a point, but Jones should be equally afraid of his own team's propensity to flub winnable games (of Dallas' six losses this season, they've led in the fourth quarter of five of them). The Eagles lead the league with 35 turnovers (giveaways, not takeaways) this season. Philly DE Jason Babin leads the NFL with 18 sacks, and Dallas' DeMarcus Ware is close behind with 16. Despite Ware's heroics, Philadelphia had its way with the Cowboys defense last time, and should do so again. The Eagles are third in the league with an average of 400 yards per game this season, and are making a late-season push to save Andy Reid's job.

San Diego at Detroit (Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET)

Venue: Ford Field

Last time at site: LaDainian Tomlinson had 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns as Doug Flutie quarterbacked the Chargers to a 14-7 victory in Week 14 of the 2003 season.

Reason for road optimism: The Chargers are making their usual December run: They've won three straight, and scored 34 or more points in all three games. After establishing a new career high with 17 interceptions in his first 10 games, Philip Rivers has gone four games in a row without throwing one. After a midseason slump, the Lions have gotten hot again and are in good shape for a wild-card spot, but they still have issues with their running game, while Ryan Mathews is playing the best football of his NFL career for the Chargers, with 1,033 yards and an outstanding 4.9 yards-per-carry average. Mathews will keep the Lions' pass rush honest, giving Rivers enough time for another big day, and Detroit's secondary won't be able to keep up with San Diego's Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd. Expect lots of points here, and another December win for Norv Turner.




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