Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos kicks off this Sunday (12/31/23) at 4:25pm EST in Denver Colorado as a home game for the Broncos. Get Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos predictions and best bets below as our best bet is on the Chargers +3.5 as they take advantage of the new look Broncos offense.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Prediction & Best Bet
After an embarrassing loss to the New England Patriots, head coach Sean Payton has seen enough. News reports surfaced earlier this week that the Broncos will be benching Russell Wilson as well as potentially cutting him this offseason. That marks the end of what will go down as the worst trade in NFL history, as well as most likely throwing in the towel on this season by starting backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham.
No matter what you think of Russell Wilson, it’s easy to argue that he was not the issue for the Broncos lackluster season. He finishes the year graded as the 12th best quarterback per PFF Grade, making this decision a head scratching one. Stidham is going to be a massive downgrade from Wilson’s production, potentially being unable to find consistent throwing production against one of the worst secondaries in the league. The Chargers currently rank 29th in Def Pass DVOA, 27th in Def Pass Success Rate, and 27th in Def Pass EPA.
Better yet for the Chargers defense, a change at quarterback usually brings a very conservative offense which revolves around screens and a heavy dose of the run. Knowing a high rate of the run is expected to be called, the Chargers may opt into stacking the box in order to mask their poor rush defense metrics. Heading into this contest, the Chargers front seven ranks 23rd in Def Rush DVOA, 21st in Def Rush Success Rate, 21st in Def Rush EPA, and 25th in Def Adjusted Sack Rate.
The potential extra stops on defense goes a long way towards their ability for covering this number, especially since they should find some offensive success against an average Broncos defense. Easton Stick may be a drop off from Justin Herbert, yet the talent around him is more than enough to keep their offense competitive. Especially if Austin Ekeler can continue to command defensive attention by rounding back into form, opening up passing lanes for Keenan Allen and Joshua Palmer to exploit against a below average coverage unit.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Prediction & Best Bet: Chargers +3.5
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Betting Odds
With the news of Russell Wilson being benched, oddsmakers opened the Chargers as a +4.5 underdog. That number has since been bet down to +3.5, still residing above the key number of +3. Stidham will be a sizable downgrade from Wilson’s production, giving the Chargers weak defense a much-needed edge in order to create early outs and stalled out drives.
As for the total, oddsmakers believed points would be scored at a sluggish rate as they opened the number at 38. Bettors believe points will come at a slightly slower rate, backing the under down to 37.5 in some shops. That still sits above the key number of 37, potentially giving some value towards the under in what should be an ugly game. Especially if both backup quarterbacks turn it over late on drives, flipping the field to the benefit of the under.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Key Injuries
Wide receivers dominate the injury reports as Keenan Allen, Joshua Palmer, and Courtland Sutton are all currently listed as questionable.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Key Matchups
Can Austin Ekeler find rushing production against the Broncos front seven?
Austin Ekeler Vs. Broncos Front Seven
After spending the early part of the season injured, Austin Ekeler has yet to round back into elite form as the once top dual threat running back in the league. That was until he played the Bills last week, finishing with 86 total yards while constantly scrambling the second level of the Bills defense.
They initially ruled the previous long run a TD to Ekeler, then changed it the 1-yard line
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 7, 2023
His dual threat ability is valuable for the Chargers offense, giving backup quarterback Easton Stick a crutch to lean on as a dump off option while simultaneously opening up passing lanes for him as well. Ekeler should continue to find production against a Broncos front seven that ranks 30th in Def Rush DVOA, 26th in Def Rush Success Rate, 23rd in Def Rush EPA, and 31st in Def Adjusted Line Yards.