So how much does a head coach contribute to his team's success on game day? Some NFL coaches are like CEOs as they delegate most everything to free themselves up to make big-picture calls during a game. Some do call plays.
I ask this because the Broncos (4-1) are going to be without head coach Gary Kubiak for Thursday night's AFC West matchup in San Diego, perhaps Denver's final game ever in its rival's city if the Chargers don't get approval for a new stadium next month. Kubiak was hospitalized following Sunday's home loss to Atlanta and was diagnosed with complex migraine condition. Can't say I've heard of that, but it doesn't sound fun. That condition has been linked to the potential for a stroke; Kubiak suffered a mini-stroke in 2013 while coach of the Texans. This current condition isn't considered life-threatening or anything, but he's going to simply rest this week. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis will handle interim duties. I'm a bit surprised that he was the choice since defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is a former head coach. Broncos boss John Elway cited DeCamillis' work in game-management situations with Kubiak and analytics guru Mitch Tanney as a reason why DeCamillis gets the chance.
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As for San Diego (1-4), I'm a tad surprised that Coach Mike McCoy is still employed. I'm not sure I've ever seen a team find more unique ways to lose late in the fourth quarter than the Bolts have this year. They truly could be 5-0. There's no way McCoy is back next year (or maybe even next week) unless San Diego runs the table.
Broncos at Chargers Betting Story Lines
Denver was upset at home by Atlanta 23-16 on Sunday to fall into a tie for first place in the AFC West with Oakland. The way that Falcons offense had been going, holding it to 23 points is pretty good. The Broncos shut down Julio Jones, he of the 300 yards receiving in Week 5. Jones had just two catches for 29 yards; last week in my Friday NFL news update story, I recommended going under the Bovada prop of Jones O/U 90 yards in the game. It was the first NFL start for first-round rookie Paxton Lynch under center for the Broncos. He was 23-for-35 for 223 yards with a TD and pick but was sacked six times. That was often a case of an inexperienced guy holding the ball too long. The Broncos weren't able to establish the run much with 84 yards on 24 carries. They have struggled to run the ball the past three games with right tackle Donald Stephenson and blocking tight end Virgil Green missing them due to injury (Green might return Thursday). The Falcons came into the game ranked 30th in total defense and 29th in scoring defense.
Lynch was the fifth rookie QB to start in the NFL this year. That is tied with 2012 for the most rookie quarterbacks to start a game in the first five weeks of a season in the past 25 years. That was the Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III/Ryan Tannehill draft four years ago. Normal starting QB Trevor Siemian was inactive for the Falcons game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, but the team thinks he will be ready to start Thursday. Lynch didn't look ready for the NFL on Sunday.
San Diego lost 34-31 in Oakland on Sunday and has lost its four games by a combined 14 points, shooting itself in the foot each time (this trend began last year). This time the Bolts blew a 24-16 third-quarter lead. San Diego had a 3rd-and-2 at the Oakland 19 with about three minutes left but Melvin Gordon was stopped a yard shy of a first down. McCoy opted to try for the tying field goal, but the holder Drew Kaser simply dropped the snap as it was perfect.
"Discouraging probably isn't strong enough," Philip Rivers said after. "I don't know if there are many more ways left to find a way to lose…. I mean, you can't make this stuff up."
Rivers had another big game with 359 yards passing and four scores, all to different players, but it wasn't enough to prevent a 10th straight AFC West loss, trying an unwanted franchise record. The Bolts turned it over four times and had three more fumbles they were fortunate to recover. In a minor upset, the team didn't release the rookie Kaser on Monday. He also serves as the team's punter but may not be the holder any longer.
There was one huge bright side to Sunday's loss and that was the NFL debut of No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa. The defensive end from Ohio State had two sacks, two quarterback hurries and five combined tackles -- including three tackles for loss -- in 27 defensive snaps.
Broncos at Charges Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Denver is a 3-point favorite (-120) with a total of 44.5. The Broncos are -170 on the moneyline and the Chargers +150 On the alternate lines, Denver is -3.5 (+105) and -2.5 (-145). The Broncos are 4-1 against the spread (2-0 on road) and 3-2 "over/under" (1-1 on road). San Diego is 3-2 ATS (1-1 at home) and 4-1 O/U (2-0 at home).
The Broncos are 4-0 ATS in their past four on the road and 8-1 ATS in their past nine on Thursday. The Chargers are 3-12 ATS in their past 15 at home. The over is 4-1 in Denver's past five on Thursday. The over is 5-0 in San Diego's past five after a loss. The Broncos are 5-0 ATS in their past five trips to San Diego.
Broncos at Chargers Betting Prediction
I do think McCoy could be fired if the Chargers lose this game in embarrassing fashion. The team really couldn't make a change with the quick turnaround, but with a few extra days ahead of Week 7 it might. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the former Titans and Cardinals coach, could finish out the season. His group has been good.
San Diego was swept by Denver last year and has lost five straight in the series. The game in San Diego was by a 17-3 count in 2015. They also played Week 17 in Denver and Peyton Manning came off the Broncos bench to lead a come-from-behind 27-20 win in the final regular-season game of his career.
I'm going to assume Siemian is playing. Give the 2.5 and go over.
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