Spotting double digits the past three seasons has been a 50-50 proposition this season.
But on the surface, if any team is a better choice than another it’s Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, who are 4-1 ATS in that role this year. And now come the not-quite-dead San Diego Chargers for this season’s Thursday night finale.
For the second straight game in Denver, frosty conditions are forecast, which should give the home guys an edge. But be wary of San Diego QB Philip Rivers, for he had his second best day of the season three weeks ago in the cold of Kansas City (24 degrees at kickoff; 15 wind chill) in a 41-38 victory. It’s going to be almost the same Thursday.
Here’s a closer look at Week 15’s Thursday night matchup. The line is provided by the Las Vegas Hotel SuperBook.
NFL FOOTBALL – THURSDAY, DEC. 12
San Diego Chargers (6-7) at Denver Broncos (11-2)
Time: 5:20 p.m. PST
Weather: Low 20s, light winds, clear
Line: Broncos by 10½ (56½)
Facts: Denver is 6-1 ATS at home this season, failing to cover only the monstrous 26½-point line against soon-to-be resurgent Jacksonville, winning 35-19… San Diego is 6-0-3 ATS in Denver since 2004… Houston, Tennessee, Oakland and Washington are a cumulative 4-0 vs. San Diego, but 10-38 against other foes… The Broncos can’t afford to slip or risk being overtaken by New England for the AFC’s top seed. The Chargers, meanwhile, can’t slip or they’ll likely be dead… Five seasons ago, San Diego entered Week 15 with a 5-8 mark and three games behind Denver in the AFC West race. The Chargers ran the table, the Broncos collapsed and San Diego won a tiebreaker at 8-8 for loop honors... Denver WR Wes Welker is out (concussion). He has 73 catches and 10 TDs this season, but had his least productive game of the year in the Broncos’ 28-20 victory over San Diego on Nov. 10, with three receptions for 21 yards.
Analysis: Denver’s offense couldn’t be pushed off the field last week in its 51-28 home win against Tennessee, running 43 more plays than the Titans and totaling 39 first downs, one off the league mark set earlier this year by New Orleans.Considering the Chargers’ defense isn’t as good as Tennessee’s, ranking 28th overall and next to last in defensive passer rating, the Broncos should have their way. But, Denver’s defense has been leaking as well and ranks 25th. With Chargers RB Ryan Mathews chugging away at 4.7 yards a try the past eight games as a perfect complement to Rivers, San Diego should be able to stay within reach. Also, in their last meeting, Denver was coming off a bye, whereas now they’re getting three-days’ rest.
Forecast: Broncos 34, Chargers 28
“Popular” Bob Christ has been forecasting NFL games for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in newspapers from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S. Contact him at [email protected].