The Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers will begin Week 15 with a matchup on "Thursday Night Football." It’s the second time the two teams have faced each other in the 2013 NFL season.
For the Broncos, the contest could help them clinch the AFC West. The team has already made the playoffs, but a win for them and a loss for the Kansas City Chiefs would guarantee Denver a division title.
The Broncos are already in the playoffs, but they aren’t expect to take their foot off the gas pedal just yet. They may have to win the rest of their games to secure home-field advantage on their road to the Super Bowl.
"I guess you have some security but our job is not finished – winning this division is number one and winning this conference is number two," wide receiver Eric Decker told the team's official website. "And we have to make sure that we get better as a team as a whole. We have a big goal and expectations for this year and that's just one week at a time and grinding away."
The Chargers have no chance of catching the Broncos at 6-7. They are, however, still in the race for the final wild card spot. San Diego trails Baltimore and Miami by one game, and shares the same record as the New York Jets. Since they have a poor conference record, the Chargers need to win out to have a chance of reaching the postseason.
The Broncos’ need to finish the regular season without a loss is reflected in the betting line. The odds-makers at most Las Vegas casinos have given San Diego 10.5 points on the road. It’s Denver’s final home game of the year, and only two times have they not been favored by double-digits at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos have covered three of the five point spreads in which they’ve given their opponents at least 10 points.
In their one matchup this season, the Broncos got off to a quick start, to which the Chargers were unable to respond. Denver took a 28-6 lead early in the third quarter on the strength of four Peyton Manning touchdown passes. Demaryius Thomas led the way with seven catches for 108 yards and three scores.
Wes Welker wasn’t much of a factor in the win, catching three balls for 21 yards. He’s expected to have even less of an impact on Thursday, considering there’s good chance he won’t play. On Sunday, Welker suffered his second concussion in four weeks and was forced to leave the game against the Tennessee Titans. With only three days to recover from the injury, the veteran will likely be forced to sit.
''These things happen. You don't like to see them happen,'' head coach John Fox said. ''Again, we'll have the player's safety as our No. 1 priority.''
The Chargers are coming off their best win of the year, having beaten the New York Giants 37-14. Philip Rivers completed 75 percent of his passes for 249 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The veteran quarterback might have to put up similar numbers in order for the Chargers to pull off the upset. In the team’s six victories, Rivers has a 123.5 passer rating, just one interception and a 76 percent completion rate. In San Diego’s seven losses, he’s thrown eight picks and completed 66 percent of his throws.
Betting Odds: Denver -10.5, 55.5
Prediction: Denver 38, San Diego 24