The AFC West lead is on the line when the San Diego Chargers (3-2) host the Denver Broncos (2-3) on Monday Night Football. Both teams are coming off of losses, although the Chargers lost a non-conference game in New Orleans. In fact, San Diego is a perfect 3-0 in conference games and 2-0 inside the division.
The Broncos dropped to 2-2 in conference play with their loss to the New England Patriots last week, although Denver is still 1-0 inside the division. The Chargers are scant -1 favorites at home with the total set at 50.
1. Why San Diego will cover the spread: The Chargers will cover this spread if they run the ball with Ryan Mathews more. Mathews has looked great the last two weeks as he is fully recovered from the broken collarbone he suffered on the first play of the preseason, and he ran the ball for 80 yards vs. the Saints last week. The amazing part is he did that on only 12 carries! He did also added 59 receiving yards on six receptions, and Philip Rivers also had a fine game passing for 354 yards.
However, the Denver pass defense is ranked 11th in the NFL while the rushing defense is ranked 20th, so the plan here should be to establish Mathews early and often to keep the fine Denver pass rushers out of the backfield, and then for Rivers to attack the secondary later on. A second key for San Diego is applying pressure on Peyton Manning, as the Broncos do not figure to run much on the Chargers’ fourth ranked rushing defense. San Diego has 10 sacks in five games and may need to do better here.
2. Why Denver will cover the spread: Denver will win this game if Manning can exploit a San Diego passing defense that ranks 20th in the league at 260.0 yards per game, and Manning sure has seemed like his old self the past two weeks. In fact he had his third straight 300-yard passing game in a losing effort vs. the Patriots, completing 31-of-44 passes for 345 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. A second key is the Denver run defense shutting down Mathews and turning the Chargers into a one-dimensional passing team. Yes, that could potentially backfire vs. Rivers, but remember that he is also prone to throwing interceptions, especially in obvious passing downs.
3. Total Talk: In a battle between two quarterbacks that can each throw for 300 yards, the most important matchup in this game is actually how Mathews does against the Denver run defense, as we feel whoever wins that battle will win this football game. If Mathews gets shut down, then we would see a high-scoring Denver victory. If not, the Chargers could win a lower scoring affair. I lean to the former and expect the combined score to sneak over the closing number.
4. Betting Trends for the game: Manning is now 14-6 ATS as an underdog, but he is 0-3 ATS in that role this season, which is as many ATS dog losses he had in all the years since 2003 prior to this season. Favorites are 7-2-2 ATS the last 11 meetings.
Denver 38 – San Diego 27