Broncos Entertain the Chargers in an Important AFC Tilt

Peyton Manning shouldn't have to worry about cold temperatures tonight in Denver.

Thursday Night Football offers us the Broncos and the Chargers in a game that should be the high-scoring affair that Commissioner Roger Goodell just loves. I’ve got this one going in a direction you might not expect.

San Diego (+10.5) at Denver – The first story here is the weather. San Diego could not have been looking forward to playing in Denver in mid-December but that may have changed. The weather forecast for today in Denver is sunny and 55 degrees.  Good news for the ‘fair weather’ football fans.

This obviously makes San Diego happy and what should make you down right ecstatic is the over/under in this game. Currently going off at 56, take the over and run. The Broncos average 40 points per game and the Chargers are averaging 25.

Neither defense is playing particularly well at the moment so combine that with the favorable conditions for tonight and I’ll recommend the over all day.

The Chargers will need a big game from Rivers in order to win in Denver.

At 6-7 the Chargers are still alive for a playoff spot in the AFC but will need help. They can get some help by winning these final three games. One of those in the season finale against Kansas City. With the Chiefs likely to have locked up the fifth seed by then, they might resting guys which could benefit the Chargers.

They still need Baltimore and Miami to lose but they can take care of their own business first and see where things fall.

For Denver, the stakes are just as high if not higher. They’ve already sewn up a playoff spot and have a one-game lead in the standings over Kansas City which is actually a two-game lead since the Broncos defeated the Chiefs in both meetings this season.

It’s imperative the Broncos win out not just to win the division but to also wrap up home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Based on their choke job in Foxboro earlier this season, Denver wants no part of having to go back there in the playoffs.

That task should not be overly difficult considering they have games at Oakland and at Houston. Both of those teams are no longer part of the playoff race.

While both teams have clearly pass-first offenses, the running game for each could prove critical to the chances of winning tonight. The Broncos rank 12th in the NFL in rushing and a lot of that can be attributed to Knowshon Moreno who has really come alive of late.

The Chargers will counter with a somewhat rejuvenated Ryan Mathews who leads the 20th ranked rushing attack. It won’t be about how many yards but rather it will be about the timing and effectiveness of the rush.

Defensively, stopping the run is always job number one but I believe the team that can get consistent pressure on the QB will have the best chance of winning. Remember, San Diego harassed Peyton Manning so much in the first meeting that he ended up with a badly sprained ankle. I look for more of the same for the Chargers.

Two really interesting numbers for the Chargers have me thinking hard. First, they are 8-11-4 against the spread in their last 23 games at Denver. Over the last seven games in Denver however, the Bolts are 5-1-1 against the spread.

Conversely, Denver is 1-5-3 against the spread in their last nine game against San Diego at home in Colorado.

Anytime I see a line of 10 or over in the NFL  I cringe a bit. There are so many things that can and do happen over the course of an NFL game that it’s hard to go with those points under most circumstances. In this case, I love the Chargers getting the 10.5 and remember to take the over too.