Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers Week 17 Football Picks

Denver Broncos (8-7) +8, 50 O/U at San Diego Chargers (7-8) -8, 50
O/U, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif., 8:15 PM Eastern, Sunday, NBC

by Badger of

Its only fitting that the 2008 NFL regular season, a season of
surprises and topsy-turvy turmoil, will have one of its biggest and
most important games of the season as its finale, when the Denver
Broncos travel to Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers
with the AFC West Division title on the line on NBCs Sunday Night
Football in America.

The Broncos could have clinched the AFC West title two weeks ago, but
back-to-back losses to Carolina and Buffalo have made Sundays game
against the rival Chargers their biggest game of the year. Denver
will need to find a way to get out of their funk quickly, as last
week the Broncos outgained Buffalo by nearly a two-to-one margin (532-
to-275) but still lost the game at home, 30-23.

On the other side, the Chargers have played their way back into the
title hunt by winning three straight games, including a 41-24 victory
on the road in Tampa Bay last Sunday. Quarterback Philip Rivers threw
for 287 yards and four touchdowns as the Chargers scored the final 21
points of the game to pull away from the Bucs in the fourth quarter
and keep the dream alive (and perhaps save Norv Turners job for one
more year).

Oddsmakers opened the game with the streaking Chargers as 9-point home favorites, but early action at the window has been all on the
Broncos, which has lowered the point spread all the way down to
Chargers minus 8-points at most books and even a 7.5 at Intertops.
The total opened at 50 and has stayed firm, although there are a few
50.5s listed at some of the larger offshore sportsbooks. The
moneyline lists the Chargers as -350 favorites, with the Broncos as a
valuable +320 underdog.

Its actually justice that the Chargers get a chance to play for the
AFC West title, because if you recall they got screwed out of a
victory over the Broncos the first time these two teams met all the
way back on September 14th. Denver quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the
ball on the Charger 5-yard line as he was attempting to pass, and it
was recovered by the Chargers for what was thought to be a game-
saving turnover, but the officials had blown the whistle, stopping
play and therefore negating the fumble. Cutler threw a touchdown on
the very next play and the Broncos slipped away with a controversial
39-38 victory in Denver.

Offensively both teams rely heavily on the passing game to set up the run.

Denver and Cutler are No. 2 in the NFL in total offense (395.9 ypg) with the 3rd-ranked passing offense at just over 275 yards per game
(277.9). The Broncos have relied so heavily on the passing game
because of the rash of injuries theyve had at running back, as they
are now down to their fifth-string back in P.J. Pope and the running
game has suffered (118 ypg 12th).

San Diego has needed to throw more often than usual because of the
sharp decline in production of star running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Tomlinson has had an off year and the Chargers are only averaging
95.8 yards per game (27th), which is why Rivers has played pitch-n-
catch a lot to the tune of 243.4 yards per game (7th). The Chargers
also are 7th in the league in scoring at 25.8 points per game.

Defensively is where this game will turn.

Denver has been suspect all year on defense and is 28th overall allowing 367.2 yards per game. The Chargers havent been all that
much better either, as they are just 25th in the league overall
(346.2 ypg) and surprising 31st versus the pass (242.8 ypg), which
you know has Cutler, Shanahan and the rest of the Broncos offense
salivating at the mouth.

As mentioned, the Broncos won the earlier meeting this year or should we say were given the win earlier this year. That win snapped
the Chargers four-game winning streak over the Broncos in the head-to-
head series the past two seasons, including last years 23-3 win at
Qualcomm. But overall the series has been an even 5-5 over the last
10 meetings. Ironically, the game earlier this year ended in a push
(Denver -1), the fourth push in the series over the last 10 games (SD
holds a 4-2-4 ATS edge).

Neither team has been good to bettors this season, as the Broncos
have killed bankrolls to the tune of a 4-10-1 ATS record, while the
Chargers have been an equally disappointing 6-8-1 ATS. Both teams are
dead even versus the total as well, as both sport 7-7-1 records on

Other betting trends to note in this contest are: the Chargers have
closed out the season well the past few years, as they are 7-1 ATS in
their last eight games in December; the Chargers have not played well
as a favorite this year, going just 1-5 ATS in their last six as the
fave; the Broncos have struggled against their rivals as they are
3-13-1 ATS in their last 17 games versus teams from their AFC West

Badgers Pick: The public has been all over the Broncos in this one, and with an attractive +320 on the moneyline its hard not to take a
flyer on them with those odds. But either way, I dont expect a whole
lot of defense in this game, so Im taking the safe bet of over 50.
Throw some lunch money on the Broncos moneyline, then watch footballs
fly and points roll up on the scoreboard. Take the over of 50.