Week 6 comes to a conclusion Monday evening with a key AFC West clash. Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos will head to San Diego to take on the Chargers. It’s a pivotal game that should set the tone for the final ten weeks of the season. The winner will lead the division, so you can bet both teams will be raring to go under the Monday Night Lights.
The Chargers enter this contest fresh off a tough road loss to the New Orleans Saints last week. After San Diego began the season with a wave of optimism, they’ve faded of late and mostly against some pretty mediocre teams. Their strength of schedule hasn’t been great thus far, making it tough to pinpoint just how good or how bad Norv Turner’s side is, but if their defense doesn’t improve it could be another long season in southern California. Quarterback Phillip Rivers has a career 106.2 passer rating against the Broncos, which is his highest mark against any team, and he’ll need to duplicate that success against a tough Denver team Monday night. Running back Ryan Mathews is back in the fold for the Chargers and should see an expanded role in this contest. On the injury front, the Chargers remain without left tackle Jared Gaither and cornerback Shareece Wright. The loss of Gaither has proven problematic in recent weeks as protection for Rivers has faded.
For the Broncos, though they enter with a 2-3 mark they’ve been in every contest and still have a big opportunity here to pull into the early lead for the AFC West crown. After dropping a tough contest to the Patriots last week, the Broncos know the necessity of a solid outing Monday night. Running back Willis McGahee wasn’t at his best in Week 5 against the Pats, and will be primed for a bounce-back outing. McGahee shredded the Chargers in both games in 2011 and will be counted on for more of the same Monday night. Look for left tackle Ryan Clady to suit up despite a hamstring injury, while linebacker Keith Brooking and right guard Chris Kuiper will also both return to the line-up. This is Denver’s last game before their bye week, and you can bet they won’t want to go into it mulling over a tough loss.
Broncos vs. Chargers Spread & Betting Odds:
Denver Broncos +1.5 (-110)
@ San Diego Chargers -1.5 (-110)
Over 47 (-110)
Under 47 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Broncos vs. Chargers Pick:
Sportsbooks seem to be giving more credit than necessary to the Chargers entering this contest. Denver has been a consistent bunch thus far in 2012, and despite their inferior record to San Diego, their opponents have all been of high quality. Peyton Manning has taken some time to get into a rhythm, but he seems to have found his game of late and should be more than capable of tearing apart a susceptible San Diego secondary.
Much has been made in the lead-up to this game about Denver’s struggling defense, after being one of the most feared units in 2011. That said, their team has faced three of the top seven offenses, and four in the top-14! There really haven’t been any down weeks for the Broncos, yet they’ve played every team tight. Expect a big, statement outing from Denver’s defense on Monday night. With Jared Gaither being listed as doubtful, the Denver pass-rush should target his replacement and get to Rivers with ease. The likes of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil should blitz regularly and will disrupt the timing of Rivers in the pocket.
Denver is the more complete team, and will be the better one Monday night. Look for Denver’s ferocious pass rush to wreak havoc on a vulnerable Chargers’ offensive line, while Manning always seems to deliver magic in primetime games. All-time, Peyton Manning has won 17 of 25 starts when entering a game with a losing record and historically boasts a strong record against the number for these prime-time games. Truthfully, he’s only played one bad quarter in 2012 and he’ll put together four solid ones come Monday night. Expect a high-scoring encounter, with both teams having success through the air. Ultimately, the consistent running of McGahee, and deep threats from Manning will overwhelm San Diego and give Denver a much-needed road victory. A score-line of around 31-27 seems fitting for what should be a Monday Night thriller.
PICK = Broncos +1.5 (-110)