Free Expert NFL Picks: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 10/21/2014
There have been back-to-back close games on Thursday nights in the NFL, and I look for that to continue this week with one of the best potential matchups of the season on that night when San Diego visits Denver.
First place in the AFC West and an early key head-to-head tiebreaker is on the line here. The Broncos (5-1) are the only team in the AFC with just the lone loss. The Chargers (5-2) maybe got caught looking ahead a bit to this one on Sunday when they were upset at home by Kansas City. Or perhaps it's just because Andy Reid-coached teams almost never lose off a bye week. But that defeat took a small bit of luster off this one.
Currently Denver is the -700 AFC West favorite at Bovada with San Diego at +500. The Broncos also are the clear AFC (13/10) and Super Bowl favorites (3/1) off a hugely impressive win over San Francisco. San Diego dropped to 6/1 to win the AFC and 12/1 for the Super Bowl.
Lastly, two of the NFL MVP favorites are facing off. Peyton Manning has overtaken the Cowboys' DeMarco Murray as the 5/2 favorite. Philip Rivers was right up there but has dropped back a bit to 10/1.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Betting Story Lines
San Diego was beaten 23-20 by Kansas City as 3-point home favorites. That ended the Bolts' five-game winning streak. The San Diego offense didn't play very well with just 251 total yards. Rivers had his worst game of the year, going 17-of-31 for 205 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He had a QB rating of at least 120 in the previous five games, an NFL record streak. It was only 83.4 against the Chiefs.
It appears the Chargers will again be using fourth-string running back Branden Oliver as the featured back this week. Starter Ryan Mathews remains sidelined probably one more game with an MCL injury, while No. 2 Donald Brown is still dealing with concussion issues. Danny Woodhead is out for the year. Oliver has been pretty good in their place with two 100-yard games. He had 67 yards on 15 carries vs. K.C. The San Diego secondary probably will be missing cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett. Flowers left Week 7 with a concussion while Verrett, the team's 2014 first-round pick, sat out Sunday with a shoulder injury. Chargers tight end Antonio Gates needs just 29 yards receiving to become the franchise's all-time leader.
Denver routed the 49ers 42-10 as Manning threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns -- his rating of 157.2 was one of the best of his career and nearly perfect. That third TD throw, an 8-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, was the No. 509 record breaker. Brett Favre needed 10,164 passes to reach 508 touchdowns, Manning's 509th TD pass happened in 8,659 attempts. If Manning stays healthy and wants to keep playing, it seems like 600 is doable, and that's simply amazing and unbreakable. Denver came out of that game pretty healthy as well. Running back Montee Ball remains out, however. He might return for Week 9. Ronnie Hillman, who is from San Diego State, has been very solid in his place.
Meanwhile, the reinforced Denver defense is also playing really well, allowing 93 yards rushing the past two games while netting 10 sacks. Von Miller leads the NFL with eight sacks, while newcomer DeMarcus Ware has seven.
Rivers' Chargers have always played Manning's Colts/Broncos teams tough for whatever reason. Last year San Diego handed Denver its only home loss, 27-20 in Week 15, also on a Thursday. That was part of a season-ending four-game winning streak that got San Diego a wild-card spot. The Bolts won that game because they kept Manning on the bench, holding possession for nearly 39 minutes. Denver did win 28-20 in San Diego in Week 10 and then 24-17 at home in the divisional round. The Broncos have won five of the past six meetings overall, but the Bolts have won four of the past five in Denver.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos NFL Week 8 Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Denver is a 9-point favorite (+110) with alternate lines of 8.5 (+105), 8 (+100), 7.5 (-105), 7 (-125) and 6.5 (-145). The Broncos are -360 on the moneyline, with the Bolts at +300. The total is set at 51 points. San Diego is 5-2 against the spread (2-1 on road) and 3-4 "over/under" (1-2 on road). Denver is 3-3 ATS (2-2 at home) and 4-2 O/U (3-1 at home).
The Chargers are 7-0 ATS in their past seven road games vs. teams with a winning record. They are 9-2 ATS in their past 11 following a loss. The Broncos are 5-1 ATS in their past six Thursday games. The under is 4-0 in San Diego's past four on the road against teams with a winning record. The over is 11-2 in Denver's past 13 at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The Chargers are 7-0-4 ATS in the past 11 at Denver.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos Expert NFL Picks and Betting Predictions
Some teams you might worry about a letdown here, but I don't think that will be the case with Denver. And I don't think Manning will allow anyone to look ahead to next week's big matchup with Tom Brady and the Patriots. The weather won't be a factor on Thursday night. I think you are fine taking Denver on the moneyline regardless, but I'm going to play it safe on the spread and take that alternate line of 6.5 points and the Broncos. Lean over.
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