Broncos vs. Chargers Odds, Picks, Predictions For NFL Week 12: How To Bet Sunday’s Spread and Over/Under
AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images. Pictured: Chargers QB Justin Herbert (#10)
Broncos vs. Chargers Odds
|Time||4:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NFL odds here.|
The AFC wild-card race is as tight as it’s ever been. Despite that, the 6-4 Los Angeles Chargers are currently in a good position. Their remaining schedule is manageable and they are fairly healthy.
The 5-5 Broncos looked fairly dead after losing four straight, including a game to Case Keenum on Thursday Night Football. But in the 2021 NFL season, that type of loss leads to a more shocking result — a win over the Dallas Cowboys. The Broncos faithful have a reason to believe for the first time in a few years.
The playoff implications of this game are massive: L.A. currently stands around a 70% chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight, and this game would alter those chances by around 20% depending on the outcome. A Broncos’ loss would cut Denver from 15% to 5%, while a win would increase it to 25%.
How will this game play out? It’s likely to be close. Eight out of L.A.’s 10 games have been decided by one possession, and the past five Broncos-Chargers matchups have been one-score games. Those searching for a tight game will definitely want to tune in.
The home dog is always tempting in the divisional game, but the value here lies in the total. The market hasn’t quite caught up to the injuries on the Denver defense, and the Chargers offense is fully equipped to exploit it. Let’s break down why.
Click the arrow to expand injury reports
Chargers vs. Broncos Injury Report
- S Alohi Gilman (quad): Out
- CB Asante Samuel Jr. (concussion): Out
- DT Linval Joseph (COVID): Out
- G Matt Feiler (ankle): Questionable
- CB Trey Marshall (ankle): Questionable
- T Garrett Boles (COVID): Out
- S Kareem Jackson (neck): Doubtful
- T Bobby Massie (ankle): Doubtful
- RB Mike Boone (hip): Questionable
- WR Tyrie Cleveland (hamstring): Questionable
- DE Shelby Harris (ankle): Questionable
- LB Bradley Chubb (ankle): Questionable
Chargers vs. Broncos Matchup
|Chargers Offense||DVOA Rank||Broncos Defense|
|Chargers Defense||DVOA Rank||Broncos Offense|
|Football Outsiders’ DVOA measures efficiency by comparing a team’s success on every play to the league average based on situation and opponent.|
Chargers Offense is Trending Up
Most NFL bettors have a love-hate relationship with the Chargers. From the days of Philip Rivers trying to mount a furious comeback to Anthony Lynn’s inexplicably bad special teams, the Chargers have infuriated, bewildered and flummoxed bettors for a long time.
This year’s Chargers have a new regime but are no different. This offense has looked extremely dominant at times, tearing up Cleveland and Kansas City. But in other games, such as the Ravens game, L.A. looked inexplicably horrible. Why? Their offensive philosophy.
The Chargers call plays knowing that head coach Brandon Staley wants to be aggressive on fourth down, as he should be. Only Cleveland has attempted more neutral-state fourth downs this season than the Chargers. The splits for this offense are stark on early/late downs:
- Early Downs: .046 EPA/play (18th), 46% Success Rate (16th)
- Late Downs: .395 EPA/play (third), 54% Success Rate (5th)
Late-down success is highly variable, and so far for L.A., it has gone well. The Chargers have a great QB and extremely good skill position players, which are the two keys to long-term success on late downs. Keenan Allen’s route running is as good as it gets, and Austin Ekeler is a nightmare to handle out of the backfield.
One injury to keep an eye on is guard Matt Feiler, who he is questionable with an ankle injury, and if he gets ruled out, L.A. will be down three of five offensive line starters.
How Can Broncos Slow L.A. Down?
At some point, L.A.’s late-down success will cool off. But does Denver have the goods to do it? The injury report makes it more difficult.
Denver’s secondary was supposed to be the strength of the unit, but safety Kareem Jackson is likely out, as is corner Bryce Callahan (IR). That leaves Denver playing the struggling Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller at corner, with rookie Caden Sterns filling in at safety. Fuller in particular has been horrible, and the Chargers can certainly exploit him.
The Broncos are also soft up front, given the injuries they’ve sustained at the linebacker position. Denver still has six linebackerson the injured reserve, two of whom may come back this week (Micah Kiser and Bradley Chubb). Chubb’s presence would be big in terms of generating a pass rush. The Broncos are 25th in rushing success rate and 20th in EPA/play allowed on the ground for a reason.
Without Chubb, Denver will struggle to generate a pass rush without blitzing. Vic Fangio has been blitz happy this year, sending extra men on 33% of snaps (likely a high for him). This isn’t conducive to success against a team like the Chargers that have man beaters everywhere on offense.
Denver Can Put Scoreboard Pressure on Los Angeles
On the surface, this Denver offense seems fairly pedestrian. It is 15th in EPA per dropback and 13th in EPA per rush. Teddy Bridgewater is an efficient, but not explosive, quarterback who won’t lose you a game, but he isn’t good enough to elevate a team beyond its surrounding talent.
But that surrounding talent has been fairly banged up. Denver has been dealing with injuries on the offensive line, and that isn’t any different this weekend with Garret Boles and Bobby Massie out. More importantly, the team was without receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler for a number of weeks.
Without a field stretcher, it’s easier for offenses to get bogged down. Jerry Jeudy came back and has made a difference. Having more of a threat down the field keeps opponents in two-high safety looks, which has helped the rushing attack as well.
We last saw the Broncos lose 30-13 at home to the Eagles, but the market has come around on Philadelphia since that game. And Denver’s offense was fairly unlucky to only score 13 points — it was 1-5 in the red zone and had a fumble returned 80 yards against it. Had the Broncos had a normal game inside the 20, they may have won outright.
We know what Bridgewater and the Denver offense want to do. Can L.A. stop them? Well, the Chargers are the worst run defense in the NFL. They have a 50% early down success rate stopping the run, the worst by over 5% (the Jets are 31st at 44.8%). They are one of three teams to give up positive expected points on early downs.
The Chargers should get defensive tackle Jerry Tillery back this weekend, which will help. But Linval Joseph is back, and the Chargers will continue to give up yards on the ground as a result of their two-high safety play style. The Broncos have two very capable backs and are actually pretty good at generating explosive rushing plays.
On the backend, the Chargers will miss Asante Samuel Jr, along with a handful of other depth corners. That leaves Los Angeles pretty thin in the secondary against a pretty deep receiving corps for the Broncos. Bridgewater should be salivating.
Broncos vs. Chargers Picks, Predictions
This game features an interesting clash of styles, with Brandon Staley’s aggressive, swashbuckling approach up against Vic Fangio’s old-school conservative game plan. The Broncos are the third-slowest team in the NFL, while L.A. clocks in at third-fastest.
Which style will prevail? If Denver believes it can sit on a lead and try to milk the clock, it is wrong — the Chargers will keep coming and stay aggressive early and often in the game. I don’t expect the Broncos to be content with small leads in this game if they are ahead. They should continue to press the issue.
The price you can get on this game — as well as the final injury report– dictates how to attack this game. At current prices of 47 and Denver +2.5 at time of writing (check real-time NFL odds here), the over is the more appealing option. Denver’s slow pace is not conducive to overs in general, as eight of 10 Broncos games have gone under this season. However, there are too many leaks in this L.A. defense that Denver can exploit and get into the mid 20s. On the flip side, the Chargers can exploit a vulnerable Denver secondary that the market still has respect for, despite the injuries and underperformance.
At +3 (-120), I see value in the Broncos at home if Bradley Chubb is able to go — Denver activated him from the injured reserve Saturday, making him eligible to play. Chubb’s presence should help Denver attack the L.A. offense on the obvious passing downs that the Chargers have relied on converting this season. Mix in a potential injury to Feiler on the line, and Denver’s defense should be able to do just enough to stay close.
Be sure to shop around for the best price available on both the Denver side and the over. Chubb’s status will be known in full before kickoff — wager accordingly.
Pick: Over 47 (-110) | Bet to: 47 (-110)
Editor’s note: Bradley Chubb is expected to play, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, making Broncos +3 now a bet for our analyst who likes them up to -120 juice. Note that the spread is on the move though, with some books lowering the line to -2.5, but PointsBet is still offering the Broncos +3 (115) as of 11 a.m. ET on Sunday.
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