Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Preview and Pick – Week 16 Monday Night Football

Denver Broncos (6-8) +8.5, 47 O/U at San Diego Chargers (9-5) -8.5,
47 O/U, Qualcomm Stadium, 7 PM Eastern, Monday

by Badger of

A few weeks ago the Denver Broncos trip to Qualcomm Stadium to meet
their AFC West rival San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football
looked like it was going to be a pivotal game with playoff
importance. That is not the case anymore as the Chargers clinched the
AFC West crown last weekend, the same weekend the Broncos were
officially eliminated from the dance.

But that doesn’t mean it still won’t be a game worth watching, or
betting on, especially since it’s on Christmas Eve.

The Chargers (9-5) have been on a major roll and are starting to look
like the team they were last season, not the one that struggled early
under first-year head coach Norv Turner. San Diego has won four games
in a row, five of their last six, and eight of their last 10. Last
week their roll gained full downhill steam with an impressive 51-14
ass whooping of the Detroit Lions.

The Broncos (6-8) are young and inconsistent, and it shows up vividly
week-to-week. Two weeks ago they looked like world-beaters, pounding
the Kansas City Chiefs, 41-7. Then last week they looked clueless in
an embarrassing and disappointing loss to Houston, 31-13.

San Diegos offense still suffers from the inconsistent play of
quarterback Phillip Rivers, as he has thrown nearly as many
interceptions (15) as touchdowns (18) this season. Its not a
coincidence that the Chargers have surged behind the running of
LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson has hit 100 yards four weeks in a row
and now has 1,311 yards for the season with 14 TD’s. With him taking
the pressure off of Rivers, the quarterback has been able to find
Antonio Gates more often. For the season the Chargers are 20th
overall on offense (318.4 ypg), 7th on the ground (126.6 ypg) and 6th
in scoring at 25.6 points per game.

Denvers inconsistency on offense all leads back to their young
quarterback, Jay Cutler. Cutler (3,096 yds., 64.6 comp%) makes throws
that remind many Broncos fans of their hero John Elway. Then a few
plays later he throws into coverage and leaves fans and coach Mike
Shannahan scratching their heads (18 TD’s, 12 INT’s). The Broncos
running game still ranks 8th in the NFL (124.1 ypg), but it has
struggled lately. Denvers problems can be summed up easily: they are
6th in total yards (353.9), but just 17th in scoring (21.1). They
move the ball well, but don’t punch it in the end zone.

The Chargers defense has played well lately despite missing two
important cogs of the unit, tackle Luis Castillo and linebacker Shawn
Merriman. Both players are listed as questionable Monday with cranky
knees. As a whole the unit ranks 16th overall (327.4 yards per game)
and 9th in points allowed at 18.9 per game.

Denver has improved a little on defense during the season, but they
are still getting gouged by the run too much (140.2 ypg 29th).
Their strong pass defense (6th 196.2 ypg) hardly matters when they
can’t stop the other teams from cranking out yards on the run. They
also give up big plays, which results in touchdowns, as the Denver
defense is 30th in points allowed at 26.2 per game.

San Diego won the previous meeting between these two back on October
7th, 41-3. The Chargers swept both meetings last season too, covering
the spread in all three games.

Speaking of covering the spread, the Chargers are 9-5 ATS this season
and sport a strong 7-1 ATS record in their last eight games versus an
AFC opponent. They have covered in all four games during their
winning streak, have covered in all but one of their home games this
season (6-1 ATS), and have an equally strong 16-5-3 ATS record versus
AFC West rivals in their last 24 tries.

Denver is the exact opposite for sports bettors, as their 4-10 ATS
record indicates. They have only covered the number once in their
last four games, and are just 2-9 ATS versus teams with a winning
record. They do have a few betting trends that are favorable though.
The Broncos have gone over nine of their last 10 games versus AFC
teams, and have also gone over the total in seven of their last eight
games in December.

Its still early, so oddsmakers at the Las Vegas sportsbooks haven’t
had to move the line too much yet. The Chargers have dropped from a 9-
point favorite when it opened to an 8.5-point favorite currently. The
total of 47 hasn’t moved at all, as most books including the online
sportsbooks have yet to get enough public money on the number to
cause them to adjust it.

Badgers Pick: On paper this looks like easy picking’s. LaDainian
Tomlinson versus one of the NFLs weakest run defenses looks like an
easy one for the Chargers. But something in my gut screams it just
won’t be that easy. Denver has a few extra days to prepare (they
played last Thursday), and they need to save face for such a weak
performance on a national stage (alright, somewhat national stage,
the NFL Network isn’t quite the same audience). Plus, the Broncos
would love to screw their AFC West rivals out of a higher playoff
seed. I still think the Chargers win, but not by such a large number.
Take the Broncos plus the points.