NFL Week 8 Preview & Odds: Chargers vs. Broncos

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-6.5, 50.5 o/u)

Division rivals will face off this evening on Thursday Night Football as the San Diego Chargers (5-2) visit the Denver Broncos (5-2) with the AFC West lead on the line (8:25 p.m. Eastern on CBS/NFL Network).

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San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-6.5, 50.5 o/u)

Division rivals will face off this evening on Thursday Night Football as the San Diego Chargers (5-2) visit the Denver Broncos (5-2) with the AFC West lead on the line (8:25 p.m. Eastern on CBS/NFL Network). The teams sit first and seventh in the latest ESPN power rankings.

All eyes will be on the quarterback matchup between the Chargers’ Philip Rivers and the Broncos’ Peyton Manning.  Both quarterbacks have put up MVP-caliber seasons thus far.  Rivers in particular has been a surprise, posting the best numbers of his 11-year career.

“He’s a tremendous competitor,” said Broncos coach John Fox of Rivers.  “I know myself and our organization and our team have great respect for him.”

The Chargers quarterback has passed for 1,961 yards and 17 touchdowns (with only three interceptions) to this point.  But San Diego would, no doubt, like to establish its running game tonight to (a) eat up the clock and keep the ball away from Manning and (b) limit Rivers’ exposure to the vaunted Broncos’ pass rush (which features the likes of Von Miller and Demarcus Ware). While rookie RB Brandon Oliver has impressed in his first three games as a starter, he and the Chargers offensive line have a tough task ahead of them, as the Denver defense is ranked third in the league against the run (74.3 yards per game).

On the other side of the ball, San Diego’s defense faces its most daunting challenge yet going up against the top scoring offense in the league (31.5 points per game). It doesn’t help that the Chargers D had its worst game of the season last week against Kansas City, where fundamentals went out the window.

“No one’s trying to miss a tackle,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said of last week’s loss.  “I think when you have talented players in space, at times there’s going to be a mismatch.  We’ve just got to do a better job of it.  We got exposed in certain plays there that made it look really bad.  It’s the basic fundamental of football.  We’ve got to do a better job with it.”

With Manning throwing to the likes of Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Wes Welker, tackling and limiting yards after the catch will be of the utmost importance for San Diego. Denver’s offense relies heavily on short passes and YAC in order to set up the deep passing game.

The Denver Broncos are currently a 6.5-point favorite for tonight’s game.  The over/under is 50.5.

(Photo credit: Greg Buch FFSwami.com (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)