NFL Predictions Week 5: Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers

Peter KleissAnalyst IIOctober 7, 2011

Ryan Mathews rumbles to one of his three touchdowns on the day.
Ryan Mathews rumbles to one of his three touchdowns on the day.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The San Diego Chargers bolt up to Colorado this weekend to take on their division rivals, the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium. Denver will be looking to snap a three game losing streak to the Chargers and avenge the 33-28 home loss they suffered on the final day of the season last year. The Chargers will be looking to quiet their detractors by winning their first game on the road this year.

Ryan Mathews gave the best performance of his career when these teams last met. He totaled 120 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns. If Norv Turner’s game plan is true to form, we shall see another big performance from Mathews this week.

The Chargers have little choice.

Tight end Antonio Gates will miss his third straight game and be kept on the sidelines at least through the bye-week. Whether this move is precautionary or the de facto standard for dealing with Gates’ injury remains to be seen. Wide receiver stalwart Vincent Jackson did not participate in practice at all this week either, and his status was reduced from probable to questionable.

It looks like Philip Rivers will have to rely on Malcom Floyd, Mathews and Mike Tolbert while hoping backups Randy McMichael, Patrick Crayton and Richard Goodman can fill in for the hobbled Chargers starters once again. Given all the flux with the passing game, it will be no surprise if Mathews gets over 25 carries on the day.

The news is not all bad on the injury front. Corey Liuget returns this week and Floyd, Tolbert and Antonio Garay are all ready to play and fully fit. Quentin Jammer practiced Wednesday but sat out Thursday with an undisclosed illness. His ability to play will be a game-time decision.

Statistically the Chargers are better than the Broncos. Defensively, they both give up about the same yardage on the ground, but the Broncos give up 78.7 more yards-per-game through the air. Offensively, the Chargers boast the sixth best passing attack in the NFL with 313.8 YPG and the No. 18 ranked rushing attack with 102 YPG. Denver is ranked in the bottom 10 in both categories, they are 24th in passing with 224 YPG and 25th in rushing with 86.8 YPG.

If you throw out that 49-23 road loss to the World Champion Green Bay Packers, the Broncos have played their opponents very tough. Their other three games were decided by a total of eight points. Couple that with the Chargers playing on the road against a division rival and their inability to score touchdowns in the redzone and you have the makings of a very close game.

Denver’s fans are all but fed up with Kyle Orten’s play but the question remains if the coaching staff is as well. He hasn’t played all that poorly considering what he has to work with, but his popularity is diminishing never-the-less. This may indeed be the weekend that Tim Tebow makes his season debut if Orten can’t please the hometown crowd. If the boo-birds force a quarterback change, I think it bodes well for a larger margin of victory for the Bolts.

San Diego is giving four points on the road to Denver and the line is set at 46 total points. That’s a really tough call as both of those numbers represent exactly what I think this game will produce. I am predicting a final score of 23-20 for the Chargers. Therefore, I am taking the Broncos and the points at home as well as going with the under.  My track record is abysmal, standing at 2-6 overall and 1-3 versus the spread and line. Last week, I won versus the line but lost versus the spread. I sure hope no one uses my predictions for actual money betting.

Until next time, Cheers!