NFL Picks: Chargers vs. Broncos Opening Odds

Jason Lake

Monday, January 6, 2014 1:00 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 1:00 PM UTC

The San Diego Chargers have somehow found their way into the Divisional Round. Can they beat the football odds and eliminate the Denver Broncos at Mile High?

Jason’s record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14, up to January 4 inclusive:

44-38-2 ATS

1-1 ML (+0.71 units)

11-17-1 Totals

When it comes to betting on football, it’s very important not to focus on the results. But I still feel like a chump after Sunday’s Wild Card game between the San Diego Chargers (+6.5) and the Cincinnati Bengals. There was a 50 percent chance of rain in the early forecast; however, I picked the favorites instead of anticipating a low-scoring game, which tends to play into the hands of the underdogs. Final score: San Diego 27, Cincinnati 10.

Lessons have been learned. The opening NFL lines for Sunday’s Divisional Round matchup (4:40 p.m. ET, CBS) have San Diego getting 10 points against the mighty Denver Broncos, and according to the long range forecast, there’s a 40 percent chance of rain over the Sports Authority Field at Mile High, possibly turning into snow later in the evening. What’s it going to be, weather gods? Rain or snow? Enquiring bettors want to know.


I Saw You, Fumbling in the Rain 

This is the time of year where the weather across America is pretty much at its worst – as you may be experiencing right now. It’s vital to know what conditions are on tap for any game on your football betting horizon. Rain and wind mess things up for offenses and create opportunities to bet the UNDER – and the underdogs as a result. Cold temperatures and a little bit of snow are fine; in fact, they make the OVER and the favorites worth betting when the market overreacts to the weather. A ton of snow? Back to the UNDER. 

You can see this pattern in play whenever Denver hosts a football game in January. The OVER is 11-7 in what are usually moderate winter conditions since 1987, and 5-1 in the past six games. Opposing teams haven’t had much trouble racking up the points at Mile High – take last year’s 38-35 win by the Baltimore Ravens (+9), for example. It was 14 degrees outside, the coldest playoff game in Broncos history, but no snow. 

Greatest of All Time 

That loss dropped Peyton Manning’s playoff record to 0-4 when the temperatures dip below 40 degrees. But now that Manning has had a couple of years to get used to playing outdoors at Mile High, maybe we shouldn’t read too much into that small sample size. Let’s look instead at his ridiculous record-breaking performance in 2013: We’re talking 55 TD passes (to only 10 interceptions) and 5,477 passing yards, with a 115.1 passer rating. Sweet potato pie.

How good was Manning’s performance? Football Outsiders had the Broncos offense rated No. 1 this year by a landslide, and No. 6 out of all teams dating back to 1989, which is how far back their stats go. That’s potent enough to make the Broncos (13-3 SU, 10-5-1 ATS) the AFC favorites despite having the No. 15-ranked defense and the No. 21-ranked special teams in the league. The OVER finished the regular season at 11-5, by the way.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Defense

The Chargers (10-7 SU, 10-6-1 ATS) have a pretty darned good offense of their own – No. 3 on the efficiency charts – to go along with their No. 32-ranked defense and No. 15-ranked special teams. But that defense managed to pick up four turnovers against the Bengals, so go figure. And the UNDER is now 10-7 for San Diego the year. What the deuce?! 

Variance happens. Again, I want to see what the weather reports look like closer to kick-off before I actually open up my wallet, but for now, I’m going with the underdogs in the rain. Lesson learned. 

NFL Pick: Take the Chargers +10 (–115) at The Greek
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