The final game on the Week 1 NFL schedule is a good old-fashioned AFC West showdown, as the Denver Broncos host the Los Angeles Chargers. Kickoff will be at 10:20 EST on Monday, September 11, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Oddsmakers list the Broncos as 3.5-point favorites, down slightly after they opened as 4-point favorites. The over/under for the game is 44 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 1 betting lines and game previews.

Chargers vs Broncos Vegas Betting Preview

 

Both teams enter the season with new head coaches. With Gary Kubiak forced into early retirement due to health reasons, the Broncos hired the defensive minded Vance Joseph to take over as head coach. 

Joseph inherits a team that went 9-7 last year but missed the playoffs one season after winning the Super Bowl. However, with a defense that’s still loaded with talent and a defensive-minded head coach in Joseph, the Broncos will still fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders heading into the 2017 season.

The Chargers, in addition to moving to Los Angeles, parted ways with Mike McCoy after four seasons and two last place finishes. McCoy subsequently returned to the Broncos as their offensive coordinator, the same job he had right before the Chargers hired him as their head coach.

For their first season in Los Angeles, the Chargers have tapped Anthony Lynn as their new head coach. Lynn spent last season as Buffalo’s offensive coordinator and brings to Los Angeles a reputation for a coach that likes running the ball and trying to grind out wins on the ground.

Free Pick & Point Spread Predictions: Broncos -3.5

 

It’s hard not to side with the Broncos in this matchup considering how good Denver’s defense can be. To be fair, the Chargers have a competent quarterback in Philip Rivers and a nice collection of receiving options led by Keenan Allen and Antonio Gates. The Chargers have also worked hard this offseason to retool what has been a dreadful offensive line.

However, the Broncos have also worked this offseason on improving their run defense, which was vulnerable last season. Denver’s defensive line appears more stout this season than a year ago, although there are some health concerns heading into Week 1, which could provide the Chargers with a glimmer of hope. Of course, if the Chargers can’t establish a ground game and have to resort to throwing the ball, Denver’s pass rush and no-fly-zone secondary can be dominant.

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Offensively, the Broncos are also hoping to see improvement. A move away from Kubiak’s zone-blocking scheme may actually benefit running back C.J. Anderson. McCoy will also try to call plays that fit the skills of quarterback Trevor Siemian.

In his second year as a starter, Siemian should be able to audible more and get the ball out quickly to a nice collection of playmakers led by Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders. Running Jamaal Charles could also become a key receiving threat out of the backfield for the Broncos. If Siemian can get the ball out quickly, it should help mitigate lingering concerns about Denver’s offensive line and some of the pass-rushing threats the Chargers have on their defensive front.

This is unlikely to be a one-sided game, but over the course of four quarters, especially at home, the Broncos will prove to be the better team. Until we see otherwise, we have to assume the Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL, making it difficult to envision the Chargers being able to score too many points.

Moreover, the Broncos have won 10 of their last 12 head-to-head meetings with the Chargers. All but one of those games was won by at least a touchdown. That trend will continue, as the Broncos will beat the Chargers and cover the spread in Week 1.