Chargers vs. Broncos Odds & Picks: The Betting Value For Sunday’s Matchup
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Lock
Chargers vs. Broncos Odds
The Los Angeles Chargers travel to Mile High Stadium to take on the Denver Broncos, pitting two teams with young quarterbacks trending in opposite directions against each other.
The Chargers are paced by Offensive Rookie of the Year contender Justin Herbert and a strong defense that is starting to get healthy, while the Broncos enter this matchup with a shell of their early season roster and their quarterback — second-year signal-caller Drew Lock — struggling mightily since returning from IR.
Despite being 2-4, L.A. has received the respect of bookmakers in recent weeks and will again in this one, laying 3.5 points on the road. Will Herbert and the Bolts sustain their momentum in their first matchup with the Broncos, or can short-handed Denver put up a fight?
Los Angeles Chargers
Herbert has been sensational since taking over at quarterback in Week 2, tossing 15 touchdowns and three picks while completing more than 67% of his passes. However, the Chargers have not been as successful on offense as it seems on the surface.
L.A. is posting a success rate of 46% according to Sharp Football Stats, the 24th-best in the NFL. Herbert has made up for a lot of that with his big arm. He is averaging 7.61 yards per attempt, the third-highest clip in the league. On top of that, the Chargers are top 10 in passing explosiveness, as Herbert has been able to take the lid off of opposing defense at will.
With the loss of Austin Ekeler, Herbert has lost his trusted safety valve and a slippery runner to hand off to. Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley have shown bursts, but ultimately don’t fill the void completely.
A promising development for the Chargers is the health of the defense. Defensive end Melvin Ingram played on 68% of snaps in his first game back since Week 2 last Sunday against Jacksonville, and is not listed on the injury report for this one.
A full-strength Ingram will bolster a Chargers defense that has been rock-solid all season. The Chargers are allowing right around the league average in yards per play at 5.8, but constantly force teams into disadvantageous situations. The unit boasts a 49% opponent first down success rate, per Sharp Football Stats, putting teams behind the sticks. On top of that, they bend but don’t break, allowing a red zone touchdown on just 52% of opponents’ trips inside the 20, top five in the NFL.
While the Chargers’ injury report has been looking up as of late, the Broncos’ is at rock bottom.
Already without the likes of Von Miller and Courtland Sutton for the rest of the season, the team may be without No. 1 running back Phillip Lindsay (concussion). Denver has battled the injury bug all season but is going to have defensive lineman Shelby Harris on the field Sunday, who was spotted on the mid-week injury report. Friday afternoon Adam Schefter reported that a Broncos offensive lineman tested positive for COVID-19, but that the game is not in danger of being cancelled.
With or without injuries, this Broncos team is easy to read. Vic Fangio’s goal for the team is to make things ugly and grind out victories. While the defense has held firm this season, third best explosive pass defense in 2020, the offense has not been able to score enough to get over the hump.
Across a similar sample size as his hot finish to last season — five games compared to four in 2020 — Lock has shown some serious regression. He has been sacked once more in 2020 than in his five starts in 2019. His completion percentage is down more than 5% year over year. He has not been capable of getting the ball down field, and his net yards per attempt is down more than a yard compared to his short rookie campaign. Maybe it is the lingering shoulder injury, but it is unlikely that things will get better against a stingy Chargers defense.
While Denver has struggled to put up points, its defense has kept them competitive at times.
However, last week, the team could not keep up with Kansas City in a snowy 43-16 loss. Despite the egregious score line, a pick-six and a kick return for a touchdown for the Chiefs may have inflated the final score a little bit. Those two scores may mask the fact that this defense did keep Patrick Mahomes and the explosive KC offense in check, as Fangio sets out to do, and I don’t think Herbert will be able to pump the ball down field as often as he was able to against Jacksonville a week ago.
If you couldn’t tell from my comments on Denver’s defense, I am going to be on the under in this one.
This is really a sell-high play on the Chargers offense that has scored 30 or more points in three straight games. I see that as kind of an outlier. Anthony Lynn’s team has had some explosive play-making that I can’t see keeping up with this disciplined Denver defense that sets out to limit that type of play.
Typically, both teams like to slow it down, anyway. The Broncos rank 25th in seconds per play and the Chargers rank 27th, according to Football Outsiders. Herbert is due to see his explosiveness come down to earth and have a more pedestrian game, and this Broncos defense may be in the right spot to slow him down just a bit.
If Denver’s offense really can’t move again, L.A. can control the game script and maintain a slow pace and run this out. I see scoring drives taking their time and good defense prevailing.
PICK: Under 44.5 (down to 43)