Denver Broncos (10-3 SU, 6-7 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date and Time: Sunday, December 14, 2014, 4:05 pm EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
TV: CBS, DirecTV 714
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Den. -4/SD +4
Over/Under Total: 51
If the San Diego Chargers have any chance of catching the Denver Broncos in the AFC West title chase, the time is now, as the Broncos travel to sunny Southern California on Sunday afternoon to take on the Chargers inside Qualcomm Stadium in a last-ditch effort to try and knock the Broncos off the AFC West throne.
After winning three in a row to climb back into the AFC West race, the Chargers fell short last week hosting Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, 23-14. When push came to shove, it was the Chargers offense and quarterback Philip Rivers who were unable to put together much of an attack against the Pats, registering just barely over 200 yards of total offense in what was just a two-point game with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth.
The Broncos meanwhile havent been winning in spectacular fashion like their point spreads would suggest they should be, but theyve been winning including last weeks, 24-17, victory over Buffalo at home in the Mile High City. The win was their third in a row and put them just one win away from taking the West division title again, with this weeks game against the Chargers as the one they need to in order to hoist the championship banner up in the Mile High Stadium for the fourth straight season.
Like every single game the Broncos and Peyton Manning have played already this season, oddsmakers opened the game with Denver as 3.5-point favorites on the road. And just like every other game this season, the early betting public has put their money down hard on the side of the Broncos, causing most sportsbooks to move the betting line up to minus -4, with a smattering of a few books up to minus -4.5 already by mid-week.
The over/under total opened at 50.5 at most sportsbooks, and the ones that didnt open the total there opened it at 51. Currently thoe are the two numbers you will find on the board at sportsbooks throughout Las Vegas and offshore on the Web.
Of course everyone already knows what Manning and the Broncos pass offense can bring to the table, but its actually been the running of C.J. Anderson in recent weeks that has helped the Denver offense break some tendencies and move the chains consistently. Since the Chargers defense is better versus the pass (8th 228 ypg) then it is against the run (14th 108 ypg) on paper, I wouldnt be surprised if the Broncos stick to the same formula of giving Anderson plenty of opportunities in this AFC West showdown.
San Diego would like to get their own running game going to take a little bit of the pressure off of Rivers to always have to make plays, but even the return Ryan Mathews to the Chargers backfield hasnt improved their weak running offense much (85 ypg 28th). With Denvers defense extremely strong versus the run (2nd 73 ypg), the Chargers attack on Sunday will likely feature five-wide and empty backfields as Rivers tries to pick them apart quickly to lessen the impact of Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware off the edge.
Denver already won the first matchup of these division rivals back in late October, 35-21, as 9-point favorites at home. The SU win was their second in a row, and sixth in the last seven meetings with the Chargers, which includes a 28-20 win last season at Qualcomm and a 35-24 victory at Qualcomm in 2012. In both games the Broncos also covered the point spread, as 7-point favorites last year and 1-point underdogs in 2012. All told, the Broncos are 4-1 ATS in their last five visits to Qualcomm and the road team is also a 7-1-1 ATS in the last nine head-to-head games between these two heated rivals..
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I know the betting trends all point toward the road team in this series, but something in my gut tells me the Chargers are going to bring everything they have left in the tank for this showdown. They need this game, not only for respect and AFC West division purposes, but they just simply cannot afford to lose again as far as the AFC playoff picture is concerned. I might suggest waiting to see if the number climbs above 4 points at any point this week, as Manning and the Broncos are one of the publics favorite teams to put into teasers and parlays every week. If the number does climb, Im going to take the Chargers at its highest point and hope they play inspired football at home. Im taking San Diego plus the points.