San Diego Chargers (4-11 SU, 7-8 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (11-4 SU, 8-7 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date/Time: Sunday, January 3, 2016 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
by Scott, NFL Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD +8.5/DEN -8.5
Over/Under Total: 41
The Denver Broncos host the San Diego Chargers on Sunday in week 17 AFC West action. This is not the game some suspected it would be in preseason, as San Diego has not held up their end of the bargain. But the Broncos have a whole lot to play for this week, with a wide array of different playoff possibilities at their feet. On Monday, the Broncos got a huge win by beating the Bengals in overtime. The Chargers, meanwhile, gave it a good go, but fell short last Thursday to the Raiders in overtime, 23-20.
The Broncos are in the playoffs on the basis of their win on MNF. But they still face a unique situation in week 17. Based on the result of this game and others in the conference, Denver can end up anywhere from the top-seed in the conference to a possible wild card team that will have to play on the road in the first week of the playoffs. A win here guarantees them a division win and a first-round bye. And if New England loses, hey could end up the one-seed. But a loss opens up Pandora s Box, where any number of eventualities are possible. Needless to say, this is a biggie for the Broncos.
Its difficult to remember a team that was so hard to get a finger on as the 2015 Broncos. On one hand, theyre a group in transition, having overhauled the entire team philosophy. But theyre also a team with a viable postseason future. The impetus has been taken off the quarterback this season and in many ways, the entire offense. Denver now relies on efficiency rather than explosiveness from the offense, while the defense does the heavy lifting for the team. And maybe thats a good thing, as their QB situation has gotten stickier with the erosion of Manning and an inexperienced guy like Brock Osweiler being thrust into action. With this Denver Broncos team, an approach like what they had the last several seasons likely wouldnt have produced much success this season.
Osweiler looks pretty comfortable in there. Hes pretty tough, as well, dealing with a shoulder issue and still managing to make most of the throws. He has a less-loaded offense this season, but still has game-changing talent at his avail in the form of Demaryius Thomasone of the best clutch weapons in the game. On MNF, it was good to see running back CJ Anderson finding his groove again, as a solid run-game could really pay off from here moving ahead. On Monday, Osweiler got a big assist from TE Owen Daniels. Beyond what the win did to boost the Broncos placement in the postseason, it had to mean a lot mentally for Osweiler to overcome a 14-0 deficit on MNF against a playoff team. Twice he put the team in a position to win the game, with it taking two tries for Brandon McManus to deliver the game-winning kick.
As is usually the case this season, the Denver defense was pivotal on MNF. After looking dicey as Cincy and backup AJ McCarron stormed out to an early 14-0 lead, they buckled down and starting early in the second quarter through the overtime period, held the Bengals to a mere field goal in scoring. Its hard to not notice how this defense makes a difference. As games get into their late-stages, the pass-rush becomes dominant and it was a big part of the win on Monday. This is the top-ranked D in football, ranked first against the pass and second against the run. And they are a big-play defense that often makes tangible contributions to the team effort.
The Chargers would like to spoil things for the Broncos, as they try to salvage something in what has been a truly awful season. One would be remiss in not pointing out that the Chargers have looked a little better coming down the home-stretch, winning two of their last five games, along with two close defeats. Rivers still can air it out with over 4500 yards on the year. This is a team that has been so besieged by injuries, that its almost pointless in mentioning all of them. Suffice to say, this is not the same team that began the season. Their offense has been stripped of just about every single difference-maker. They have used 15 different offensive linemen this year. And against this Denver defense in their first game of the season, this offense could barely move the ball.
As players have gotten healthy, the San Diego defense has started showing some of its fangs. And in the first game between these teams, they were pretty tough against Osweiler and this Broncos offense, holding them to 10 points of scoring. San Diego has a lot of good young talent on this side of the ball and some of it is coming together. Melvin Ingram is establishing a consistent pass-rush and a lot of guys are starting to make plays, like former first-round corner Jason Verrett. They hope to put some pressure on Osweiler this week.
Denver figures to be at a state of high-urgency this week with so much riding on the line. And the Chargers just dont really have the horses on offense to compete with a good team that will be trying really hard. And you have to wonder if this maybe being the last game for the Chargers as a San Diego team will figure into things or if the handling of the Eric Weddle situation will create enough organizational disgust to where the Chargers phone this one in. I just think the SD defense can give Denver enough problems to keep this one marginally-close against a young QB who will likely be pressing a bit. Ill take the Chargers and the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the San Diego Chargers plus 10 points.
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