The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos renew acquaintances on Sunday in a game that many see as a must-win for the Broncos. Why it is a must win depends on who you ask. For those that choose to look at the NFL week-to-week, the Broncos would be at 2-3, one game behind the Chargers for first place in the AFC West with a W. For others, with Denver heading into their BYE next week, a win is a must simply to calm the rattled nerves of the fan base.
There has been a growing sentiment that the Chargers could be ripe for the picking. Denver is a desperate team, playing in front of desperate fans. The Chargers, while 3-1, haven't been great in playing a schedule that has consisted on wins against the Chiefs, Dolphins and Vikings. To me, however, a line that has gone from Denver +6 all the way to Denver +3.5 is surprising to me, even if the Broncos are the fashionable upset pick this week.
Perhaps after winning a Super Bowl, it seems Philip Rivers likes nothing more than to crush the Broncos. Rivers has played major minutes in 11 games against the Broncos since 2005, and the Chargers are 8-3 in those games. The average score? 33 - 19. If you look at the three wins for the Broncos, all could have a footnote beside the box score:
- In his first game against the Broncos, Rivers came into the game for the injured Drew Brees. The Broncos won easily - 23-7 - in the final game of the 2005 season.
- In 2008, the Chargers were beating the Broncos until a Jay Cutler fumble(A play that looked similar to Kyle Orton's drop against the Raiders) was incorrectly ruled an incomplete pass by Ed Hochuli. The Broncos scored a touchdown, then converted the 2-point conversion for a 39-38 win.
- In 2009, the Broncos beat the Chargers on Monday Night Football thanks to Eddie Royal's 2 returns touchdowns - one punt return and one kick-off return.
The other 8 games, however, have not been kind to the Broncos. San Diego has scored piled up the points, scoring 367 in those 11 games. The Chargers have had games of 52, 48, 41, 38, 35, 35, 33, and 32 against the Broncos, with games at SA Field in bold. Conversely, the Broncos have 30 or more just twice over the span. Frankly, it hasn't been close.
Rivers, himself, in those 11 games has been huge, throwing for over 3600 yards, 18 TDs and just 6 INTs.
So why is everyone jumping on the bandwagon?
I asked the guys over at PreGame.com to give me their thoughts. Pregame.com is the largest sports betting news site compliant with U.S. law, and have been featured by ESPN, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and hundreds of other national outlets. Pregame.com has agreed to provide Mile High Report with exclusive insider analysis of how Las Vegas is looking at this week's Broncos game. Needless to say, they think the Chargers are the 'Wise' move.
Vegas Runner (Follow on twitter: @VegasRunner)
With the Broncos having covered only ONCE in their last-10 meetings against the Chargers and coming in off a blow-out loss to the Packers, it was obvious the odds-makers would look to protect the books by sending out an inflated price for bettors wanting to back San Diego. There is no doubt the betting public/recreational bettors will be heavy on the Chargers and as a later game this match-up should attract the most lop-sided betting action on the entire NFL board come Sunday. But before that happens, books have received plenty of sharp money from multiple betting syndicates on the Broncos. This move from sharps is based on the inflated opening price coupled with a home dog in a divisional game and more importantly due to injury concerns for the Chargers. With Gates listed as out and both Jackson and Floyd not 100% if they play, the passing game should be limited. San Diego is only ranked 18th in rushing while the Broncos defensive has had more success against the run than the pass, ranking 14th in the league. Finally, even with all that sharp money being wagered throughout the week, the bookmakers will hope the wiseguys are on the right side. Because when it comes to the NFL, public money will almost always outweigh the sharp money.
Marco D'Angelo (Follow on twitter: @MarcoInVegas)
The Broncos return home after back to back road games but don't expect anything to change now that they are at home. The Broncos have had two glaring problems this season. When they are on offense they continue to turn the ball over. They now have 11 turnovers through 4 games. But the biggest problem of all is a pass defense that has been getting torched as they have given up 1000 yards thru the air in the last 3 games. Problem is 2 of those teams were Cincinnati with a rookie QB and Tennessee with a new QB still getting comfortable with his new team and a new offense. Last week Green Bay QB Rodgers put up 49 points against Denver. Phillip Rivers should have a Big Day on Sunday against this defense. San Diego wins this by 10.
Joe Gavazzi (Visit homepage: www.JoeGavazzi.com)
This line has dropped 2 ½ points since an opening number of -6. We gladly step in with the San Diego team that is on an 8-2 SU, ATS series run vs. their division rivals. There is no question the San Diego offense misses the versatility of Darren Sproles. The fact that Antonio Gates will miss another week is also not a positive. But the Chargers stat profile is again among the best in the league. They are out-gaining teams 416-298. Eventually, that translates into a better record than 1-3 Against the Spread. And, Philip Rivers is a far greater preference than Denver starter Kyle Orton. We use this figure more in baseball, but it is applicable in the NFL as well. It speaks to a signal callers leadership abilities. The concept is TRGS, a team's record in a game started by a pitcher or quarterback. In the case of Kyle Orton, that number is 4-17 Straight Up, 6-15 Against the Spread most recently. This is a Denver team whose talent level has not been significantly upgraded from the 4-12 Straight Up, 5-11 Against the Spread record of 2011. Eventually, respected first year head coach John Fox turns it around with a focus on an improved run game and defense. For now, they are allowing 28 points per game on 378 yards. Coming off a pair of road losses, including by a count of 49-23 last week vs. Green Bay a game in which they allowed 507 yards to the Packers, does not build confidence in this rebuilding team. Chargers, despite injuries, get a comfortable victory on Sunday.
RJ Bell (Follow on twitter: @RJinVegas)
Sometimes the lessons of the past change but we are not listening. For as long as I can remember convention has been that Denver is a strong home team. The numbers no longer back that up. At its most basic, a point spread is an expectation of the game. If you win Against the Spread, you've exceeded expectation. If you lose, you've fallen short. In the last 38 games at home, the Broncos have only covered 11. Far short of expectation. If you would have bet Denver the last 10 times vs. San Diego, you would have cashed only once. I'm not a big fan of the Chargers' questionable intangibles, but I'm less of a fan of backing the Broncos in this spot.
While we can take what is said with a certain grain of salt, remember - there are plenty of tall buildings being built in Las Vegas - that money comes from somewhere...