Chargers vs. Denver Broncos: Betting lines, odds and predictions

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) scrambles with the ball in the first half.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert scrambles with the ball during a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Dec. 16.
(John Cordes / Associated Press)

The Chargers host the Denver Broncos as they try to bounce back from their embarrassing 41-29 loss at Houston last week.

The Chargers are 8-7 along with three other teams in the AFC (Dolphins, Raiders and Ravens) as they battle for the last wild-card spot. The Chargers would be on the outside looking in “if the playoffs started today,” so this is a must-win for L.A. The Broncos are 7-8 after a 17-13 loss at the Raiders on Sunday that severely hurt their playoff hopes (less than 1% chance by some estimates as they’d need to win their last two games and still need a lot of help).

Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Chargers as 6.5-point home favorites with an Over/Under of 45½ even though the Broncos beat the Chargers 28-13 five weeks ago as 2½-point home underdogs.


Denver Broncos at Chargers (-6½, O/U 45½), 1:05 p.m. PST, CBS

The Chargers were in control of their playoff destiny a week ago before their inexplicable loss to the Texans as 13-point road favorites. The most troubling aspect of the 41-29 loss was that the Chargers got within two and four points of the Texans in the second half but then couldn’t stop Houston’s No. 32-ranked offense as Rex Burkhead ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns while QB Davis Mills completed 21 of 27 passes for 254 yards and another two TDs.

I wrote last week that I wouldn’t feel comfortable laying the points with the Chargers as they have a long history of being unreliable favorites going back through the Philip Rivers era. And you can’t blame Rivers or former coach Anthony Lynn as Justin Herbert and Brandon Staley fell to 4-6 against the spread this season and 1-4 ATS in their last five games as chalk.

So, again, we don’t feel it’s a good bet to lay the points with the Chargers, even though the spread is half as big as it was last week, because the Broncos are twice as good as the Texans.

Chargers safety Derwin James Jr.’s availability on Sunday against the Denver Broncos still remains uncertain.

Dec. 30, 2021

In backing the Broncos plus the points, I also like the fact they dominated the previous meeting while rushing for 147 yards against the Chargers’ porous run defense in building a 28-7 lead. Herbert did throw for 303 yards in that game, but that’s because he had to as Austin Ekeler only rushed for 31 yards and the Chargers were down so early. Herbert was intercepted twice by Pat Surtain II, the second of which was returned 70 yards for a TD.

Denver RBs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams were both limited in practice earlier this week, but the Broncos’ running game should be fine as long as one of them is able to play.

I would feel better backing the Broncos if Teddy Bridgewater were to be cleared from concussion protocol, but if the Chargers can’t stop the run, Drew Locke won’t have to do much in game-manager mode.


Pick: Broncos +6.5

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