By Danny Cox
For almost three decades, he has been the voice behind the NFL, the NCAA, the PGA Tour, and so much more. Jim Nantz is known around the world as one of the greatest announcers around and it should come as no surprise that he always knows exactly what he is talking about. That’s why it was my pleasure to have a few minutes to speak with him about the upcoming “Thursday Night Football” game between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.
Both the Chargers and Broncos are having magnificent seasons so far, and this could be an early preview of the AFC Championship Game. Peyton Manning recently broke Brett Favre’s career passing touchdown record and Philip Rivers is looking like he may have a career year. This will be a battle between two AFC contenders and one that could set the tone for the rest of the season.
Peyton Manning just broke Brett Favre’s touchdown record…how many more years do you think he has to build on it?
Jim Nantz: “I think that Peyton is playing right now as if he is in the prime of his career. I believe that if he wanted to play another three years…he is physically going to be able to do that.”
How does Philip Rivers compare to the likes of Manning and Favre?
JN: “Well, I think Philip Rivers is one of the most underrated players in the league. He is a fierce leader, extremely accurate passer, and plays with as much passion as anyone I see around the game. You hate to compare Philip at this point in his career when guys have already locked up their spot in the Hall of Fame. He is an upper-echelon quarterback and he’s showing this year how important he is to this team.
They are winning in a big way thanks to the play of Philip Rivers.”
Denver is playing just as well or better this year than last year when they got to the Super Bowl and got blown out by Seattle. What can they do to make sure that doesn’t happen again?
JN: “They went out this offseason and addressed their weaknesses. They loaded up on defense and put more speed on defense. The additions of Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward were all significant.
People also seem to forget that when they went into the Super Bowl last year, they were really struck by injury. Yes, every team usually faces late-season injuries, but it was especially prevalent on Denver’s roster with the likes of Vaughn Miller, one of the best linebackers in football. They were missing their left tackle Ryan Clady last year. They had serious health issues going into that game last year.
I get what you’re saying about what must they do better because they got blown out by Seattle…people still need to remember they won the AFC Championship. I know that’s not that what you ultimately play for, but that’s a tremendous achievement. The Super Bowl was no question, a complete disaster, but they’ve gone out and made the changes they need. If they can stay healthy, Denver is loaded and better than they were last year.”
Despite their loss to the Chiefs, the Chargers have looked better in the first six games of the season than they have in years. Do you feel they are legit Super Bowl contenders?
JN: “I think they are legitimate playoff contenders. I’m not going to say right now they are a possible Super Bowl winner. Once you qualify for the playoffs, anything is possible. They’re biggest obstacle is that they have Denver in their own division. They’re not afraid of the Broncos though, and they have proven that the last couple of years. They beat them in Denver last year.
They’re 5-2 and have gotten there by overcoming tremendous early season adversity. They got hit as hard as any team in the league with early season injuries and they have found a way to get around it to this point.”
With Brandon Oliver playing better each week, do you think that Ryan Mathews’ time in San Diego could be coming to an end?
JN: “Absolutely not. That’s not even a consideration. Ryan Mathews last year, second half of the season, was one of the best running backs in the game. Oliver is giving them a really nice option and has done a great job at filling in for Mathews, but his time has not been shortened in San Diego by any means. Once he’s healthy, Ryan Mathews is just about to enter the prime of his career. He’s not going away.”
Not choosing Philip Rivers, who is a key player for the Chargers in hopes of winning on Thursday?
JN: “It’s going to be a case of a lot of Brandon Oliver since I’m not expecting Ryan Mathews to be back yet. He is going to have the same kind of performance he has been having, but now against a very feisty Denver defense. They are tough to run the ball on. Oliver will have to have a good game for San Diego to win this one.”
Not choosing Peyton Manning, who is a key player for the Broncos in hopes of winning on Thursday?
JN: “Demaryius Thomas. Peyton used to be really good about sharing the love and making sure that Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker, and Emmanuel Sanders all got about the same number of catches, touches, touchdowns. I think Demaryius Thomas has proven that he is such a superb and gifted talent that Peyton will take every opportunity to look for him. Thomas is finding new ways to get open, score touchdowns, and put up incredible numbers.”
Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.