It’s predictions time for tonight’s Thursday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos (4-1) and San Diego Chargers (1-4). You can catch the game right here on the SB Nation network as we’ll be live streaming it.
The Mile High Report staff and That’s Good Broncos converge to give their score predictions for tonight’s game. It’s no surprise that it is again wins across the board, but more reasonable given the struggles San Diego has had in all of their games this season.
Our consensus score pick is 28-14. I’ll take that. Here is how we each broke it down individually.
Broncos 17, Chargers 13.
Some, most, will focus on the return of Siemian as the starter, but the key to this game is the return of Donald Stephenson and Virgil Green. With both of those guys out of the lineup, the Broncos offense has been one dimensional, to say the least. As the tweet from Andrew Mason highlights, with Stephenson and Green on the field, Denver averaged 4.7 yards per carry and had 255 yards rushing. The three games without them the offense averaged 2.9 YPC and had 182 yards rushing.
Broncos FB/RBs, Weeks 1-2:— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) October 9, 2016
54 carries, 255 yds., 4.7 YPC
Broncos FB/RBs, Weeks 3-5 (w/o Stephenson, Green):
62 carries, 182 yds., 2.9 YPC
The Broncos have to find that balance against San Diego or we will see a redo of Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. This has the makings of an ugly game, and you never know what to expect from a divisional game. The Broncos leave with the victory, extending their NFL record to 16 straight divisional road game wins. - Ian St. Clair
Broncos 24, Chargers 6.
The Broncos are a prideful team and you can bet they didn't take well to a complete butt kicking (as Emmanuel Sanders called it) dealt them by the Falcons. Plus, add in the fact that they will be playing hard for their sick head coach, and you have a recipe for total domination of the Chargers in front of a national (as national as Thursday Night Football gets anyway) audience. On the field, getting Stephenson and Green will go a long way to making the offense hum again, regardless of who's at QB. - Jeff Essary
Broncos 35, Chargers 10.
I'm actually disappointed that Paxton Lynch is not starting. I would have loved to see how he bounces back from a bad performance. However, the stability that Trevor Siemian brings will be important with head coach Gary Kubiak not on the sidelines. That being said, Denver should have no problems with a San Diego team that struggles to get out of their own way. The Broncos will be angry. Look for the offense to take to the air and put up big points. The defense will be ballhawking and get more than a few take always. Philip Rivers will find himself looking up at the sky from underneath many a pile of Broncos. - Adam Malnati
Broncos 24, Chargers 17.
Las Vegas has the spread at -3 Denver, which really means -6 (as the home team is generally an automatic -3) and as you know the Broncos' flag is as entrenched in Qualcomm Stadium as the West Coast's was in New Jersey during the East Coast/West Coast rap beef of 1995-97. An interesting thing to keep note of will be the running back usage that Denver employs, C.J. Anderson has seen his touches go down from a 46.5 share over the first two weeks of the season to 33.6 every since. Rookie running back Devontae Booker has seen his snap percentage increase every single week going from 10% in Week One to 41% in Week Five. I don't know that Booker will hit 50% against the Chargers, but if he stays on trend there is a chance that he might.
Where San Diego's defense has been stout is on combatant running backs, where they have allowed the 7th fewest yards per carry to oppositional running backs (3.57). Where they've been not so stout is in the receptions that they have allowed to opposing backs (9.6 per game), the most in the NFL. If Trevor Siemian is given the start, expect him to pump the breaks on anything down field and look immediately for either Anderson or Booker out of the backfield where the Chargers are giving up nearly 10 receptions per game to running backs.
An interesting note on Demaryius Thomas is that he has secured 76.5% of the passes lobbed his way this season, his career high is 65.7 (in 2012), but in 2015 he was only able to come down with 59.3% of his targets. Philip Rivers probably wakes up screaming Von Miller's name so often that River's wife is looking forward to voting yes on California's Proposition 64. Miller has sacked Rivers more than he has sacked any other quarterback in the NFL (11 times). Tom Brady is second on that list with 7.5.
Both Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders will likely finish in the top 20 for wide receivers this week regardless of whether it is Siemian or rookie Paxton Lynch taking the mound. Aside from 4.39, 40-yard dash speedsters coming out of the backfield, Denver's defense has been most defenseless against tight ends, but future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates was only able to play 14 of 32 pass attempts last week and won't figure to improve too much on that on such a short week. Whoever plays quarterback for the Broncos this week will face a San Diego defense that has allowed 300-yards passing to 4 of their 5 opponents this season. - Ian Henson
Broncos 34, Chargers 17.
The Broncos offense will bounce back after a loss, especially the run game assisted by the offensive line. The defense will be out for revenge against their favorite target - Phillip Rivers in San Diego. - Kelly Fleming
Broncos 34, Chargers 17.
Forecast for Thursday Night Football: Offensive fireworks on display for both teams, but the Broncos' sticking strong late to defeat the Chargers on the road and rise to a 5-1 record at the top of the AFC West. - Chris Hart
Broncos 27, Chargers 10.
The Chargers have been hanging tough against mediocre opponents, but this is the first team they will face so far that has been in the consensus Top 10 all year long in most power rankings. I would expect the Chargers offense to finally hit a brick wall, especially against a defense that will be as motivated to play as ever coming off a loss where they were a bit gashed. The return of Donald Stephenson and Virgil Green should stabilize the line. Good thing too, because Trevor Siemian will need to not get hit as much as Paxton Lynch was four days ago. - Tim Lynch
Broncos 52, Chargers 21.
OK, I don't really think that will be the score, but how fun would that be? Especially since it was the score eight years ago when they beat us after we had beaten them 39-38 on a controversial flag that allowed a touchdown and two-point conversion to win in the final seconds. It would be too much fun to have some offensive fireworks of our own while our defense holds Rivers and Co. to just a few TDs. And I predict one fake punt call out of DeCamillis in which Riley Dixon runs for a first down as well as a pick-six. What a way to bounce back from last week's hot mess of a game, eh? However, I've rarely known a Broncos blowout, so I'm really predicting a 24-21 game. - Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann