Los Angeles Chargers (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)
The Chargers have won a combined 9 games over the past 2 seasons, but they have had so much bad luck in terms of injuries and close losses. They’ve ranked 26th and 31st over the past 2 seasons respectively in adjusted games lost to injury and are a ridiculous 4-16 in games decided by a touchdown or less over that time period. That type of bad luck tends to even out in the long run though and the Chargers have ranked 14th and 7th in first down rate differential over the past 2 seasons, so they definitely have hope going into 2017.
The Chargers have already had some injuries and enter this game without their top-2 draft picks (Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp) and starting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman. However, getting wide receiver Keenan Allen and cornerback Jason Verrett back from mostly lost seasons in 2016 is still going to have a huge impact on this team, as those are two of their best players. Even without them last season, the Chargers still managed the move the chains at a noticeably better rate than their opponents (+1.58%). Now with those two back, a new head coach in place in Anthony Lynn, and hopefully some better luck in close games coming along with him, the Chargers have a good chance to make the post-season in 2017.
Despite that, this line favors the home team Broncos by 3.5 points, suggesting they are better than the Chargers, which is not accurate. The Broncos still have major problems on offense and are not the same defense as they were when they won the Super Bowl, especially without defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who joined the Rams this off-season. The Broncos have lost 5 starters from their defense over the past 2 off-seasons (Malik Jackson, Sylvester Williams, Danny Trevathan, DeMarcus Ware, and TJ Ward) and 2015 1st round pick Shane Ray, who was supposed to replace the retiring Ware, will miss at least the first half of the season with injury.
They still have a good defense, but they won’t finish 2nd in first down rate allowed like they did last season, so their offense will have to play better, after finishing 30th in first down rate in 2016. With 2016 1st round pick quarterback Paxton Lynch still unable to beat out the mediocre Trevor Siemian for the starting job and with talented left tackle Russell Okung now on the Chargers, that seems unlikely. I have the Chargers as 2 wins higher than the Broncos in my season previews and I would take them as 3.5 point underdogs in a heartbeat, considering 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. The Chargers are also worth a bet as field goal favorites and they are one of my favorite picks of the week. The money line is also worth a bet as the Chargers have a good chance to win this straight up.
Los Angeles Chargers 23 Denver Broncos 20 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +3.5