Thursday, December 11, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 15: Broncos Vs Chargers

Denver Broncos Vs. San Diego Chargers: DEN -4 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

Last week's advanced line had the Broncos favored by -3.5 for this game. It reopened at the same number, but the books have moved it to -4. I don't think this is a reflection of early money, but just a market adjustment to compensate for all the anticipated bets that will come in on the Broncos. Sure enough, we're seeing 76% of the wagers on the road team so far.


Bottom Line

Last week I took a pass on the Patriots at -3.5 when they were in San Diego, but I think that the Broncos are still the class of the AFC until I see a reason to think otherwise.

As we head towards the playoffs, the Broncos are employing a much more balanced attack on offense than they had last year at this time. That's bad news for a San Diego defense that hasn't been able to reach middle-of-the-pack status this year. And the biggest concern I would have if I was the Chargers would be their defensive ranking in the big moments - 18th inside their own 20, and 30th on 3rd/4th down.  How do you expect to slow down Manning with that level of performance? Oh yeah, J Thomas seems to be on track to play Sunday too.

And if Denver was still average on defense then I could make the case that Rivers could keep pace on offense, but the Broncos D ranks in the top 3 based on DVOA. The biggest flaw this unit has is their play inside the red zone, but how many of those conversions are garbage TDs in the second half?  I have trust in this unit because they rank in the top 10 on 3rd/4th down. Disrupting drives and getting off the field gives them a huge advantage because the biggest thing opponents want to do is keep the ball out of Manning's hands. That task will only be taller if Mathews' ankle is still an issue on gameday. And how about their young OL? Will they be able to handle Denver's pass rush on the outside?

There is a legitimate risk for a backdoor cover at -4. If they can allow Orton to drive down the field with ease to score a late TD, then Rivers is more than capable of doing the same. The difference for me is I don't think the Chargers D is anywhere as good as Buffalo's, so it won't be as easy slowing Denver's offense down.

NFL pick: DEN -4.

Read moreWeek 15 picks.