San Diego Chargers (10-7) at Denver Broncos (13-3)
This is one I’m completely torn on. On one hand, the Chargers are in the better spot. The Broncos could be overconfident because they’re at home coming off of a bye. Teams are 14-22 ATS since 2003 as home favorites after a 1st round bye in the post-season, including 8-14 ATS off of a week 17 win. With a week off, the Broncos may have one eye on the AFC Championship Game and a potential rematch with the Patriots.
Patriots/Broncos and Seahawks/49ers seem to be the consensus AFC/NFC Championship Games right now as you can see from the NFL Superbowl Lines. We all know how seldom the consensus is right in the post-season. It might not be a bad idea to bet against all 4 of those teams. I’m thinking at least 3 of their opponents cover. The Chargers, meanwhile, are in a good spot as teams are 10-3 ATS as underdogs off of a road playoff win since 2005. Not only that, but they are 8-5 straight up despite being underdogs all 13 times. We’ve seen so many teams go on runs from the Wild Card round after winning on the road before. That could make the Chargers dangerous.
The Chargers have also been infrequently blown out this year, with just 1 loss by more than 8 points and no losses by more than 10 (that 10 point loss was somehow to the Raiders). That’s relevant with the line at 9 points. However, on the other hand, they lost by 8 at home to the Broncos, so why couldn’t they lose by double digits in Denver? Sure, they won in Denver a few weeks ago, but in spite of that, it’s definitely arguable that the Broncos are the best team in the NFL so if anyone is going to blow out the Chargers, it’s them.
The Broncos rank 1st in rate of moving the chains differential, moving the chains at an 81.09% rate, as opposed to 71.86% for their opponents, a differential of 9.23%. The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 10th, moving the chains at a 77.88% rate, as opposed to 75.24% for their opponents, a differential of 2.64%. That suggests that this line should be around 9.5. That doesn’t give us much line value with the Broncos, but it’s worth noting.
The Broncos are definitely capable of blowing out the Chargers, in spite of the Chargers’ lack of blowout losses this season. The Broncos have also been deadly at home over the past 2 years, going 12-4 ATS as favorites. In 7 of their 8 home games this year, they’ve won by double digits, with the exception obviously being the loss to San Diego. In 2012, they won by double digits in 5 of 8 home games in the regular season.
Speaking of that loss to San Diego, I think some people are putting too much stock into that game and San Diego’s win in Cincinnati. San Diego obviously played well last week, but part of that was because they forced 4 turnovers. Considering how inconsistent turnovers are, that the Chargers had just 17 takeaways all year, and that they are facing the Broncos this week, that’s not something they’re going to be able to count on this week. Their defense is pretty bad when they aren’t forcing takeaways.
As for the win in Denver, I think that was a fluke that would happen about 10% of the time. The Chargers are certainly capable of putting together a perfect game, playing keep away with their offense and having just enough defense, but the Broncos are much more likely to do the same thing. I was hoping this line would be smaller or that the public would be on San Diego more though, so I could take the Broncos. This line is basically the same as it was the last time these two teams played and I don’t think we’re getting enough line value with the Broncos. As long as the line is higher than a touchdown, I’m taking the Chargers, but it’s a pretty much toss-up.
Denver Broncos 31 San Diego Chargers 24
Pick against spread: San Diego +9