The Los Angeles Chargers will try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive this week as they take on the Denver Broncos in an AFC West rivalry game. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 1 at Empower Field in Denver. Fans throughout the Mountain Time Zone and Southern California can watch the game on CBS.
Current betting odds list the Chargers as 3-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 39 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 13 NFL betting odds.
For the Chargers, this will be the last in a stretch of three straight games against their division rivals. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, they’ve lost the first two games to the Raiders and Chiefs, dropping them to 4-7 on the season. That puts them two games behind the four teams tied for the final Wild Card spot in the AFC with just five games left to play.
Needless to say, the Chargers probably need to win all five of their remaining games to have a chance at reaching the playoffs. L.A.’s remaining schedule includes three games on the road and showdowns with the Vikings, Raiders, and Chiefs the final weeks of the season. The Chargers have winnable road games against the Broncos and Jaguars the next two weeks and both are must-win games to keep hope alive.
Meanwhile, the Broncos are all but finished in 2019 after losing four of their last five games. Denver has had a propensity for losing close games this season, but their losses the last two weeks may have been their most frustrating. First, the Broncos blew a 20-0 lead against the Vikings to lose 27-23. They followed that up with perhaps their worst performance of the season, losing 20-3 in Buffalo last week.
For what it’s worth, the Broncos are just a game behind the Chargers and have a chance to avoid their second last-place finish in the last three seasons. Denver gets three of their final five games at home, but they’ll also play three teams with winning records over the final five weeks. This week’s game with the Chargers is vital for the Broncos if they want to avoid a last-place finish in the AFC West.
On the bright side, the Broncos beat the Chargers 20-13 when they met in Week 5. However, prior to last year’s home loss to the Chargers, Denver had won five in a row when hosting their AFC rivals. On the other hand, the Broncos haven’t pulled off a season sweep of the Chargers since their Super Bowl season in 2015.
The Chargers aren’t giving anyone much reason to believe in them these days, but the Broncos are somehow even worse. While four of their eight losses this year have come by four points or less, I can see them struggling in their second game against the Chargers this season. L.A. still has something left to play for and a little more upside offensively, so I’ll lay down the points and lean toward the Chargers to cover three points on the road.
It’s hard to look past what a mess the Denver offense is right now. The Broncos have managed just two field goals over their last four quarters. After three starts, the Broncos appear ready to move on from Brandon Allen and give rookie Drew Lock a chance. However, while head coach Vic Fangio has said that he’s open to a quarterback change, he’s not yet made it official that Lock is starting. Of course, there’s no way of knowing if Lock will fare any better than Allen has behind a lackluster Denver offensive line.
For what it’s worth, the Broncos had great success running against the Chargers when they met in Week 5. Also, stopping the run remains a weakness for the Los Angeles defense. But surely the Chargers will know that they can sell out against the run and force the Denver offense to beat them through the air. If the Chargers can get a decent handle on the running game, it seems like a safe bet that neither Allen or Lock can beat them throwing the ball, especially with a Los Angeles pass rush that’s capable of doing some serious damage.
On the other side of the ball, I’m not ready to give up on the Los Angeles offense. Philip Rivers has thrown seven interceptions over his last two games, but he’s had an extra week off to regroup. The Chargers are also capable of running the ball with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. The Denver defense was gashed for 244 yards on the ground last week against the Bills, so I’m not confident the Broncos will be able to shut down Gordon and Ekeler. As long as the Chargers commit to running the ball, they shouldn’t have to ask too much of Rivers or put him in a bad spot.
I’ll admit that taking the Chargers as a road favorite is far from ideal, but I don’t doubt that they have a better team than the Broncos. While Rivers has struggled big time in recent weeks, he’s a better option than either of Denver’s inexperienced quarterbacks. That should be enough to give the Chargers a comfortable win that covers the 3-point spread.