Chargers - Broncos Thursday Night Preview
Chargers - Broncos Thursday Night Preview
Survival is at stake for the visitor, home field advantage through the playoffs is on the line for the hosts. We have a Thursday Night game that matters this week on the NFL Network! The San Diego Chargers visit the Denver Broncos in one of the most important matchups this week in pro football.
Let’s start with the Chargers. Here’s where they currently stand in race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
BATTLE FOR THE LAST WILDCARD
San Diego 6-7
NY Jets 6-7
San Diego currently owns the tiebreaker over the Jets because of a better conference record. But, they still have to leapfrog the two teams in front of them to reach the postseason. That’s particularly difficult because the Chargers have a very poor 3-6 record in AFC play. You can’t win tiebreakers with that! Plus, one of those six losses was to Miami, which gives the Dolphins an even earlier tiebreaker victory should those two be knotted at the end for the final spot.
San Diego must win Thursday in Denver to reach 7-7 (4-6 in the AFC), and then must win out at home against Oakland and Kansas City while getting help elsewhere. Stranger things have happened in the NFL. But, a loss drops them to 6-8 with two games left and a horrible tie-breaker profile. They would be eliminated if either Baltimore or Miami won this weekend in tough games vs. Detroit and New England respectively.
For Denver, it’s more simple. Keep winning, and they’re the #1 seed.
BATTLE FOR #1 SEED
New England 10-3
Kansas City 10-3 (currently slotted for first Wildcard spot)
Denver wins out, and nobody can catch them. But, if Denver loses and falls back into a tie with New England…then the Patriots would get the nod because of a straight up win over the Broncos a couple of Sunday Nights ago. The injury to Rob Gronkowski may have been a godsend to Denver. They don’t have anything locked up yet and the margin for error is tight unless the Patriots lose at Miami Sunday.
Kansas City would have to surpass Denver in won-lost record since they lost both meetings with the Broncos in divisional action.
That’s the backdrop…let’s get to the numbers…
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
San Diego: 6-7 (#19 schedule in USA Today)
Denver: 11-2 (#20 schedule in USA today)
Both teams have played very similar schedules. Clearly Denver is the better team by a good bit. The Broncos won 28-20 at San Diego a few weeks ago, with a 397-329 edge in total yardage and a whopping 6.6 to 4.8 advantage in yards-per-play.
San Diego: 6.3 on offense, 6.3 on defense
Denver: 6.1 on offense, 5.5 on defense
San Diego’s defense is really up against it here. They have one of the worst defenses in the league, which is saying something the way Dallas, Minnesota, and Chicago are playing on that side of the ball. Now, they have to play a high octane offense while huffing and puffing at altitude. Normally, you’d think cold weather would help the defense. Now that receivers have Velcro gloves, evidence is suggesting that offenses may be more favored in cooler conditions based on what we saw last weekend and in recent seasons. Denver lit up Tennessee at this stadium last week, and is now facing a softer defense.
San Diego: -3
Both teams have been a disappointment in this regard. That could loom large for the Broncos in the playoffs. Their defense can’t be counted on to set them up with cheap points. If that happens in a game where Peyton Manning throws one or two interceptions…TROUBLE! For this particular Thursday Night matchup, the category is a wash.
San Diego: 7-5-1 ATS
Denver: 8-4-1 ATS
Both teams have been money makers for their backers. That’s particularly amazing in the case of the Broncos, because oddsmakers had them rated as the best team in the NFL before the season started. Even though oddsmakers KNEW Denver was great, and KNEW the public wanted to bet on them, they haven’t been able to get the numbers in the right spot in terms of reflecting reality.
Current Line: Denver by 10.5, total 47
That may seem high for a game where both teams are in “must win” scenarios. But, you saw the stats…and you know that San Diego is playing out-of-climate, at altitude, with a horrible defense against a potent offense. If Denver won by 8 on the road…that would equate to at least 14 at home given the value of home field advantage. But, Philip Rivers is certainly capable of rising up and playing a great game And, even if he doesn’t…he’s capable of coming through the backdoor in the final minutes if the Chargers are behind by 14-17 points.
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Back with you tomorrow with an early look at the Army/Navy game. NFL coverage continues Sunday with Cincinnati/Pittsburgh on NBC, and Monday with Baltimore/Detroit on ESPN.
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