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Broncos vs. Chargers Gambling Preview/Prediction

NFL: DENVER at SAN DIEGO (8:35 PM ET, ESPN)

Fatigue won’t be to blame if San Diego drops this critical Monday night contest vs. the Broncos. The Chargers will have had 15 days to prepare since their ugly loss at Pittsburgh dropped them to 2-2.

Now, 2 ½-games back in the AFC West, HC Norv Turner’s team is in must-win mode. The hosts are a 4-point favorites, and most bettors expect them to get the job done.

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Fortunately, the Chargers have won often vs. Denver of late, going 5-1 SU & 6-0 ATS in the L6 H2h meetings. They’ve also done well at home under Turner, going 14-6 ATS, including 4-2 ATS vs. divisional foes.

The Broncos are 5-0 after beating New England and head into their bye week next Sunday. They are 2-7 ATS in their L9 pre-bye week games on the road AND vs. division opponents. Denver won its only game vs. an AFC West foe so far, snapping a skid of 3-15 ATS vs. division rivals.

The Chargers waited until Week 13 last season to get their act together and snagged the division title on the final Sunday. This year’s push for the AFC West crown needs to begin on Monday night when they host upstart Denver, which comes off its fifth win out of the gate.

San Diego hasn’t enjoyed a fast start since 2006 when it won four of its first five and finished 13-3. It lost three of four to start the following season and was 2-3 at this same time a year ago. At .500 and coming off a bye as well as a 38-28 loss in Pittsburgh in Week 4, head coach Norv Turner can’t put his finger on one thing that’s ailing his talented club.

On paper, the difference between the Chargers and Steelers was 10 points. But Turner’s team fell behind 28-0 before quarterback Philip Rivers got the air show going and made it interesting.

San Diego allowed almost 500 yards, including 165 to backup running back Rashard Mendenhall, 32 first downs and five touchdowns in five possessions in the red zone. Rivers (254 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions) was the only reason it wasn’t a complete disaster and he’ll be forced to do more of the same this week if the defense can’t get its act together.

San Diego has yielded an average of 151 rushing yards per game and is without tackle Jamal Williams for the remainder of the season. Opponents have converted almost half (24 of 49) of their third-down tries and on average enjoyed more than six-and-a-half minutes of possession time.

Denver had myriad defensive issues a year ago, but not anymore. Its resurgence has been led by a unit that was nothing short of a sieve in 2008, yielding 28 points per game, including 90 in two meetings with the Chargers.

Through the first five weeks, new coordinator Mike Nolan has directed a group that allowed 43 points and no more than 17 in any game. Even against the Patriots and Tom Brady, the Broncos didn’t come apart and pitched a shutout in the second half.

While running New England’s offense from 2006-08, Denver head coach Josh McDaniels enjoyed a good deal of success against the Chargers with three wins in four games, including a pair of postseason battles.

PREDICTION
The Broncos can show the nation how far they’ve come and take a stranglehold on the division lead with a win in this spot. They’ve been outscored 123-44 in their last three trips to Qualcomm and face a team that was beat up on national television two weeks ago. It’s time for the Chargers to wake up.

SAN DIEGO 20, DENVER 19

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