Free NFL Pick: San Diego at Denver 01-02-2011

January 2, 2011


San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos

Sunday January 2nd, 2011 4:15 PM EST

Line: San Diego -4


The San Diego Chargers have made a habit of starting off slow and catching fire at the end of the season to barely make the playoffs. They fell short this year and have been eliminated from playoff contention. Last week, in a game they needed to win to stay alive, the Chargers were blown out by the Bengals. There seems to be almost no rhyme or reason to which Chargers team is going to show up. Will it be the team that never played with any sort of conviction last week or the team that always seems to show up when they play the Colts?

The Broncos stopped a five game skid with a come from behind victory over the Texans last week. They will need to show up for 60 minutes when they play the Chargers, as the Chargers are still among the NFL’s elite when it comes to defense. It is unlikely that if they fall behind by 17 again, they will be able to obtain the same results as last week.

Keys to the Game:

  • Tim Tebow is going to step into the NFL and replace Brett Favre in a lot of ways. He isn’t mechanically sound. He makes mistakes. When you watch Tim Tebow though, like Favre, you can’t help but root for him. He plays the game with such enthusiasm that it makes you remember that football is in fact a game. His leadership and excitement make everyone on the team believe in the cause. He is running the ball with conviction, which is a great sign given that people doubted his style of play would translate to the NFL. Critics say people are getting too excited over a win against the Texans, but a win is a win for any rookie in this league.
  • Mike Tolbert is out, so it’s time for Ryan Matthews to show why the Chargers drafted him so high. He has been a disappointment thus far, and most people believe Tolbert is a better back at this point. Matthews needs to have at least one impressive game this season. This is the perfect opportunity to do something great. The defense is week. Tolbert is out, and all the pressure of the playoffs has been alleviated. He needs to cease the moment and show that he can do for the Chargers what Ladanian Tomlinson did.

Key Matchup:

Philip Rivers Vs. Denver’s secondary:

  • What Philip Rivers has been able to do with what he has been given is nothing short of incredible. He has to take it completely upon himself this week to win, with Tolbert out. While the offensive success of the Chargers is ultimately a result of the production Rivers sees, it is unclear how Rivers will do should the running game struggle. There have been a number of combinations of receivers that have been thrown on the field and they have all worked. The credit belongs to Rivers.
  • If Rivers is to succeed this week, he will need to check the ball down, a lot. Last week, Darren Sproles was targeted ten times. Rivers will need to go with a similar approach this week, as he cannot find himself forcing passes in Champ Bailey’s direction. The Broncos loaded up their secondary with elite NFL defensive backs who had lost a step and are on their way out. They might not be able to run with the best the NFL has to offer anymore, but they certainly are crafty enough to be successful in coverage against the motley crew the Chargers have assembled as their receiving corp.

Wrap Up:

The Chargers have made it clear. They don’t want to play anymore. With no playoffs to speak of, this team is unlikely to show up. Tim Tebow makes it difficult not to buy in to the Broncos. While they certainly are the less talented team, I think they care more about winning than their opponent this week. No Tolbert, a struggling Ryan Matthews, and the fact that Norv Turner looks safe are all reasons the Chargers are probably going to casually walk on and off the field on Sunday.

Free NFL Pick: Denver +4

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