Denver Broncos (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (1-4 SU, 3-2 ATS)
Week 6 NFL
Date/Time: Thursday Night Football, October 13, 2016 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: DEN -3/SD +3
Over/Under Total: 45
The Denver Broncos come to Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers on Thursday Night Football. This AFC West battle pits two teams who had a difficult time of it in week five. Denver lost their first game of the season in a 23-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. San Diego, meanwhile, blew another one, as a comedy of errors brought about a 34-31 road loss to the Oakland Raiders. The loss dropped the Chargers to 1-4 and the bizarre part of it is that they could easily be 5-0. Or maybe 4-1. For them to get one win out of those games is a high crime.
The Chargers are good enough to offer hope and awful enough to ruin it more often than not. The fact that they've overcome some bad injuries to be in a position to win all these games speaks volumes about this team's ability. But something always goes wrong, a little quirk in the storyline always preventing the Chargers from having a happy ending to the story. Late in the third quarter, it was 24-16 Chargers. And as usually is the case, things fell apart.
Within 7 minutes going by on the clock, it was 34-24 Oakland. Naturally, San Diego scored a TD, held Oakland, and embarked on a scoring drive. They got in the red zone and as victory came within sight, they had a few highly-unimaginative run plays, almost making it look like they were playing for the tie. And as is usually the case when a football team tries to daintily fox-trot its way to a win, something went wrong. After botching a punt, rookie Drew Kaser couldn't hold the game-tying FG attempt, getting the yips and messing it all up. Kaser has been awful with the mistakes this season and this is why they were in such a hurry to get rid of Mike Scifres? It's a disheartening situation to say the least.
As usual, there were some things to be happy about for the Chargers. The offense has stayed remarkably intact despite being pelted with injuries. Philip Rivers is still great and threw four touchdowns on 359 yards passing. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin both had 117 yards receiving. TE Hunter Henry was impactful with 74 yards and a TD, while Antonio Gates also caught a TD. Melvin Gordon had 69 yards on the ground with a receiving TD. The line is getting healthy and that resulted in some offensive proliferation. It still wasn't enough.
The defense didn't thrive against Oakland, but they were impressive in spots. It's just that they play with such a wide range of form from game to game and sometimes even from drive to drive. One major development was the incorporation of rookie and number-three pick Joey Bosa, who looked like a heck of a pass-rusher in his first real action of the season. He had two sacks on the day. He should help a defense that needs more difference-makers. And even with the Chargers collapsing in all but one of their games, they've covered 3 out of 5 spreads and did so again on Sunday, despite falling apart.
So Denver fell short on Sunday—big deal. They weren't going to win all their games this season and after all they've been through, maybe a lull was somewhat predictable, though of course in retrospect. Somewhat surprisingly, Trevor Siemian was a late-week scratch, with rookie first-rounder Paxton Lynch getting the nod. Looking at it now, it's clearer why Siemian won the starting job, as Lynch flashed unmistakable potential, while showing he is still raw in the NFL context. He was frozen in the pocket at times and lacked the overall proficiency that Siemian had shown in 4 starts. With the AC joint in his left shoulder still bothering him Sunday, they are hoping he will return Thursday.
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Neither side of the ball for the Broncos had a good day on Sunday against the surging Falcons. Offensively, they were lackluster, scoring 3 points until the final quarter, with two scores in the game's final 2:38 when it was already a wrap. CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker were unable to make a dent in the run-game, while the aerial attack was grounded until very late, with Lynch finally hitting Demaryius Thomas for a TD. The line was not at its best in Lynch's first NFL start, as he was sacked three times. RT Ty Sambrailo, in particular, had a rough time with Vic Beasley who had 3.5 sacks.
Holding an Atlanta team that was putting up huge points the previous two games to 23 points in no disgrace for the Denver defense. They were exploited a bit with Atlanta keeping them off-balance with the short-pass option, as Denver was forced to respect the run. Tevin Coleman, had 132 receiving yards and 31 yards rushing, with Devonta Freeman also adding a TD and 88 yards on the ground. Shane Ray and Von Miller continued their pass-rushing ways, as each recorded a sack. And holding Atlanta to 23 points and 372 yards isn't really so awful. They held Atlanta to 2-for-12 on third down conversions.
Neither team is getting this short week at a great time. After absorbing punishing losses on Sunday, they turn around for the quick week here and it will be interesting to see which team can rise to the occasion. Denver, on the heels of a loss, might be able to refocus to avoid a possible slide. But San Diego is pretty dangerous for a 1-4 team. One has to figure they won't keep finding new and innovative way to give away wins. I see a close game, where taking the home dog seems like a good option, even if it is the Chargers.
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