Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Pick
Los Angeles Chargers (11-4 SU, 8-7 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (6-9 SU, 6-8-1 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, December 30, 2018 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
By Loot Levinson, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LAC -6.5/DEN +6.5 (Intertops)
Over/Under Total: 41.5
The Los Angeles Chargers come to Mile High on Sunday for a week 17 AFC West showdown with the Denver Broncos. The season hasn’t gone the Broncos’ way after a streaky season with some ups and more downs. After looking to be back in the mix several weeks ago, they have fallen quite a bit, losing their third in a row on MNF to the Raiders, 27-14. The Chargers, meanwhile, look for some positive momentum to carry into the postseason after falling on Saturday night to the Ravens at home, 22-10. They would need to win this game and have the Chiefs lose to win the division and end up with home-field throughout the playoffs. I like the Chargers to cover the spread in this one.
In Part One of Two…
On November 18, these teams met in LA, with the Broncos registering a 23-22 win. It was an unlikely win, with a series of different factors lining up perfectly for Denver, as they kicked the game-winner with time running out to win. It was definitely a season-low for the Chargers, as they looked a lot like the old Chargers, both in execution and bizarre coaching calls. It’s almost like they had to try to lose that game, with clock management, weird penalties, and a couple picks by Rivers spoiling what should have been a routine win.
Before Being Too Hard on the Chargers
That loss to Denver was rough and one could have expected better last Saturday from the Chargers at home against the Ravens. Let’s not forget, though, that those are the Chargers’ only losses since week three of the season. They have won 10 out of their last 12 games and in their last 22 regular season games, are 17-5 after losing to Baltimore on Saturday. But this is a tough spot—a road assignment against a team they have already failed to beat. And after a long season, and they did look a little weary on Sunday, Mile High isn’t necessarily where you want to be. Then again, coming off the short week after a MNF game, Denver might be feeling a little worse for wear, as well. And with the Chargers’ only road loss this season coming against the Rams, they have yet to lose outside of LA all season.
The loss to Baltimore saw the Chargers looking a bit flat. And maybe that had something to do with the higher urgency on the Ravens’ part, as they were playing for their playoff futures, whereas the Bolts were just looking for a top-seeding. It’s also worth mentioning that the Chargers were facing a defense that just might be the best in all of football heading into week 17. The week before, they mounted an unlikely comeback, beating the Chiefs in regulation after trailing by 14 with less than four minutes left. They sewed up the unlikely win with a two-point conversion at the end. It shows they’re not in bad form at all and that maybe they were a little worn-down last week against the desperate Ravens.
What Kind of Chargers’ Team to Expect on Sunday
Playoff ramifications aside, the Chargers have been on a long ride this season. After losing to the Ravens at home in a flat-looking showing, I would expect some extra urgency to resonate this week. They lost to the Broncos last time they played and both sides of the ball should be in peak mental form. This is no time in the season to begin sagging. Sure, it seems unlikely that the Chiefs will lose to the Raiders next week, as the fifth-seed looks inevitable. I just look for more fire this week.
It could resonate with a Chargers’ defense that looks to line things up for a postseason run. Against Denver’s run-game, the Chargers look to re-establish their front. Brandon Mebane is back and adds a run-stopping element, along with pass-rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram—both of whom were quiet in that first game against Denver. Look for guys in the secondary like pro-bowl safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips, with corners Desmond King and Casey Hayward to get that playmaking element cooking again.
Matchup Issues for the Bolts
As much as the Chargers losing to the Broncos was their own undoing, Denver still managed to be a fly in the Chargers’ ointment in that game. The playmaking Denver secondary was able to rise to the occasion, getting a couple picks. Von Miller had a sack and an interception. Their ability to make game-changing developments occur was on display. Denver was able to hold Melvin Gordon and the Chargers’ run-game in check, while their own run-game did well on limited attempts, as they were playing from behind most of the game. Granted, the Broncos have receded some, but they showed they match up decently with the Chargers. And now they’re at home getting extra points with the whole playoff team vs. team with nothing to play for mojo at play. After giving up over 100 yards to RB Doug Martin on MNF, Denver might struggle in keeping Melvin Gordon in check.
Are the Broncos Still Getting After it?
While one would generally fancy the Broncos as an underdog with some spoiler-appeal in this matchup, are the Broncos even up for the task? After getting to 6-6 with three straight wins, consecutive losses to the Niners, Browns, and Raiders don’t reflect well. Rather than fighting their way into the postseason picture, they folded like hot laundry. The odds would seem to favor that Vance Joseph is a lame-duck head coach who will be coaching his last game and coming off the short week after phoning it in against Oakland, things don’t set up for a rip-roaring Broncos performance in week 17.
With 44 points in the last 3 games combined, the Denver offense has stalled out some in recent weeks. Case Keenum has gone from vaguely-effective and clutch to just not very good. Right now, he’s on the bad end of that spectrum, with two more picks on MNF. His receiving corps has disintegrated over the course of the season, with Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, and DaeSean Hamilton leading the way. And though Phillip Lindsay surpassed 1000 yards last week, the 1-2 punch of him and Royce Freeman has slowed in recent weeks.
Lay the Points on the Road Favorite
The Chargers have had some uneven moments in recent weeks and playing in Denver could be a taxing proposition at the end of a long season. There are also a lot of times in week 17 when a team that has playoff ramifications struggles against a bad team with nothing for which to play and for whatever reason; it goes contrary to what you would think. I don’t see that being the case this week. While Denver is typically a lot better at Mile High, I see this being a game where the very divergent team-mindsets manifest on the field. I’ll take the Chargers.
Loot’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Los Angeles Chargers minus 6.5 points.