San Diego Chargers (4-5) at Denver Broncos (6-3)
In my Power Rankings this week I joked, “Why does it feel like the Chargers are going to lose to Denver, fall to 4-6, and then go on their annual late season run, finish 8-8 or 9-7, miss the playoffs barely, and save Norv Turner’s and AJ Smith’s jobs? Oh, that’s right, that happens every year.” Well, I’m not so sure that their annual late season run can’t start this week.
It’s more likely that they drop this one and then go on their run, just because Denver is on a roll right now and their schedule gets easy after this one (home for Baltimore, and Cincinnati, at Pittsburgh, home for Carolina, at the Jets, home for Oakland), but you can rule out them winning this one or at least being competitive.
The Chargers are road dogs after a road loss, a situation teams are 80-47 ATS in since 2008. Norv Turner is also 5-1 ATS in same season divisional revenge games, though it’s worth noting that teams are just 9-16 ATS trying to avenge a same season loss in which they blew a 14 point or larger halftime lead. Philip Rivers, meanwhile, is 30-19 ATS in week 11 or later, including 11-4 ATS as dogs.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are home favorites after back-to-back wins as road favorites, a situation teams are 54-37 ATS in since 1989. We’re also getting some line value with them as the yards per play differential method gives us a real line of Denver -13 (they rank #1 in yards per play differential) and the rate of sustaining drives differential method gives us a real line of Denver -4.
If we average those out, we were getting a little bit of little value with Denver (Denver -8.5), who is absolutely rolling right now. It’s weird to say, but Tracy Porter getting sick was the turning point for their season. Obviously, I wish the best for Porter in his recovery from him mysterious illness, but as well as Peyton Manning is playing, they wouldn’t be a complete team if it weren’t for Chris Harris and Tony Carter stepping up and playing phenomenal in their secondary and that wouldn’t have happened if Porter were playing.
They haven’t lost since Porter went out. Harris and Porter are both former undrafted cornerbacks who were afterthoughts on the depth chart that Jack Del Rio has playing out of their minds. Carter is allowing 11 of 32 for 115 yards, 2 interceptions, 4 deflections, and 1 penalty and is unfortunately not even on the Pro-Bowl ballot. He’s also scored twice defensively. Chris Harris, meanwhile, is allowing 23 of 40 for 255 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions, while deflecting 1 pass and committing just 1 penalty. He also has 3 sacks and is playing the run very well.
They rank 6th in pass defense, 2nd in run defense and lead the league in yards per play differential. In rate of sustaining drives, they’re 9th. Peyton Manning is completing 69.7% of his passes for 8.2 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, all above his career averages. Their only issue is that they’re -4 in turnovers, but they’re improving in that area, though Willis McGahee’s fumbling problem is an issue.
I’m scared to bet against Manning, but I’m also worried this could be the week that San Diego turns it on. I’m taking the Chargers just to fade the public and because if the Chargers are down 10-14 late driving for the backdoor cover, I’d rather have them than Denver, though it’s close because I really like Denver’s defense, especially since they started giving Tony Carter more playing time.
Public lean: Denver (70% range)
Sharps lean: SD 11 DEN 5
Final update: No change.
Denver Broncos 27 San Diego Chargers 20
Pick against spread: San Diego +8 (-110) 1 unit