Bet Broncos ATS for Thursday Night NFL Picks vs. Chargers

Jason Lake

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:13 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014 1:13 PM UTC

Are you willing to fade Peyton Manning? The Denver Broncos are flying high right now, but the San Diego Chargers are getting more than a touchdown on the NFL odds for Thursday night’s key AFC West showdown. 

Jason’s record after Week 7: 22-29 ATS, 7-11-1 Totals

Profit: minus-29.68 units

Timing is everything, folks. The Denver Broncos opened as 6.5-point favorites for Thursday night’s tilt (8:25 p.m. ET, CBS) with the San Diego Chargers at Mile High. Could be a bit chalky. But the NFL odds as we go to press have pushed that spread all the way to 7.5 points. Now we’ve got a conundrum on our hands: Do we bet on the league’s best team in its ascendancy, or do we bet on the team that’s gone 1-3 SU and 3-1 ATS versus Denver in their past four meetings?

Spoiler alert: We’re going to add Denver to our NFL picks. But it’s another one of our standard 1-star recommendations, with an estimated cash-in rate of just 53 percent. There’s no question San Diego has tremendous betting line value with the spread going over the magic number seven. We’re putting our faith in the healthier Broncos roster, aided by their recent bye week, plus Denver’s superiority in defense and coaching.

Beat Nick
It shouldn’t take too much convincing that Denver (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS) has played the better football this year. We’ll just trot out the SRS numbers from Pro Football Outsiders: The Broncos lead the NFL at plus-15.8, while San Diego (5-2 SU and ATS) is fourth overall at 9.0 SRS. If you mash those two numbers together and add 2.5 points for home-field advantage, you get something close to Denver –9.5 as an estimated point spread.

Those are the numbers for the full season, though, and while the Broncos have crushed their last three opponents SU and ATS since enjoying their early bye in Week 4, the Chargers had their 5-0 ATS streak snapped in Week 6 when they barely beat the Oakland Raiders (+7.5 at home) 31-28. Then San Diego lost outright to the Kansas City Chiefs (+3 away) 23-20 on Sunday.

This is where the injuries come in. We’ve talked about how San Diego’s offensive line has taken a beating this year, especially at center with Nick Hardwick (neck) and Doug Legursky (knee) both out for the season. The Bolts are also thin at running back with Ryan Mathews (knee) and Donald Brown (concussion) not due back for at least another week. The Broncos are the picture of health by comparison.

It’s a Game of Give and Take
Which segues nicely into our look at the Broncos defense. As expected, their offseason makeover has delivered results: Denver ranked No. 2 in defensive DVOA (No. 3 pass, No. 4 rush) going into Week 6, miles ahead of San Diego at No. 20 (No. 18 pass, No. 17 rush). The Chargers have made up for that efficiency gap with their plus-6 takeaway/giveaway ratio, and have yet to lose a fumble; the Broncos are just plus-2, with only one fumble recovery thus far. Both teams check in with an equal plus-4.7 defensive SRS (No. 5 overall) through Week 7.

Giveaways and takeaways are high-variance events, and San Diego has definitely had the better luck in this category during the last four games against the Broncos. Consider last year’s Divisional Round matchup, when Denver (–8 at home) had two turnovers to none for the Chargers, who covered in a 24-17 loss. Then there was their Week 11 game from the 2012 campaign, when the Broncos (–7.5 at home) gave up a pick-six and a safety in their 30-23 victory. Now you can see why Thursday night’s spread moving from San Diego +6.5 to +7.5 is so disconcerting. We’ll take our chances anyway, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel/Rest: DEN
Defense/Special Teams: DEN
Coaching: DEN
Market Bias: SD
Betting Line Value: SD

Verdict: 1-star pick on DEN

Free NFL Pick: Bet 1.4 units on the Broncos –7.5 (+104) at SBOBET

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