The San Diego Chargers won in Denver against the Broncos in Week 15 of the NFL season. How representative will that game be when these teams meet for the third time in the past two months? That’s the question that’s on everyone’s mind as the divisional playoffs approach.
AFC Divisional Playoff Game – Sunday, January 12th
San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos
NFL Football Odds: Broncos -8.5
Why The Chargers Can Cover The Spread
They are playing their best football, and more specifically, they’re playing the style of game that can give the Broncos a maximum number of problems. San Diego won at Cincinnati by controlling the ball and not having to throw a large number of passes. Quarterback Philip Rivers played a very measured and limited game. He didn’t commit big mistakes, largely because he didn’t have to take many chances in the first place. The Chargers’ defense and running game wore down the Bengals, who imploded and committed a bunch of turnovers. The Chargers shortened the game, which frustrated the Bengals’ offense as soon as San Diego took a seven-point lead in the third quarter.
This approach is in many ways what San Diego used to beat Denver, 27-20, in week 15 of the season. The Chargers kept the ball away from Peyton Manning, who – realizing how few possessions he was likely to get in this game – pressed too much when he had the ball. Manning threw a key interception, and the Chargers played a low-mistake game to limit the Broncos’ offense to a small number of possessions and just 20 total points, their lowest output of the year. San Diego can very realistically replicate this formula and cover on the betting lines.
Why The Broncos Can Cover The Spread
They have the better team. It’s true that San Diego won in week 15, but the Chargers took advantage of several factors that night that aren’t in place in this game on Sunday. First, Denver was much more beaten up in that game than the Broncos are now. Denver’s injury situation is still cause for concern, with Von Miller out for the season and Kevin Vickerson (a strong defensive lineman) out for this game. However, the Broncos’ secondary has been given a chance to regroup. Most of all, receiver Wes Welker – who missed the week 15 game against San Diego and then the final two games of the regular season – will be back in action for this game. If Welker is effective, Denver’s passing game – especially on third downs – immediately becomes a lot more potent and dangerous. The Broncos should be able to get a lot more of the matchups they want on offense. Peyton Manning should be able to distribute the ball to a full complement of backs and receivers, and that means the Broncos should be able to do more with each of the possessions they get. Even if San Diego has some success in shortening the game, the Chargers might not stop the Broncos’ offense, which is poised for a big performance.
The Broncos won’t cover the spread – at least, it’s not likely. San Diego plays too much of a ball-control style and will probably be able to stay in the game for almost all 60 minutes. However, the Chargers don’t have enough firepower to overcome the Broncos as long as Wes Welker remains healthy. Denver will win, San Diego will cover the point spread.
Pick: Chargers +8.5