San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos
Time: 3:25 PM CT
Spread: DEN -10
Betting odds c/o Pincle
Peyton Manning is healthy and available again, but he will not start for the 11-4 Denver Broncos as it closes its regular season as 10-point favorites over the visiting 4-11 San Diego Chargers.
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Manning had missed the last six games with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot, but he returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since injuring the foot Dec. 17 in practice. This was his first full practice since Nov. 13, a point at which he suffered a set back in his recovery. Manning said, “I’m happy to be more a part of it now than just being in street clothes…and working out on my own.”
Exactly how many snaps Manning will see is unclear, but his backup Brock Osweiler is relishing the opportunity to get the bulk of the snaps for one more week at least.
Manning, meanwhile, has been trying to dispel a report that he used HGH in his recovery. He said “(It) wasn’t true Sunday. It’s not true today and it won’t ever be true. And I’m still angry about it.” The report came from Al-Jazeera, casting incredulity on further reports from the news outlet, which is not known as a primary source for most sports fans.
Osweiler has thrown eight TDs and just three INTs in his six-game stint as a starter. He completed 27 of 39 for 299 yards and a TD in the 20-17 OT win over AFC North Champion Cincinnati last week. He said “My focus is 100 percent on the Chargers’ defense, and doing whatever I can to prepare to go win a football game,” after having been questioned on the importance of being a starter. He was a suitable fill in for Manning, and the Broncos are just a win away from the division title and a first round bye.
It would give Manning one more week of practice to recover and be ready for the postseason should Denver attain that coveted bye.
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The Broncos will clinch the division title either with a win or a Kansas City Chiefs loss to the Oakland Raiders. However, to obtain the bye they either must win or have the Chiefs blow it and the Bengals falter Sunday. It is best to control its own destiny, in making sure it emerges from this one with a ‘W.’
If Denver wins and the New England Patriots lose to the Miami Dolphins, it would clinch the AFC’s top seed for Manning and company.
Osweiler has functioned well with Owen Daniels, who had five receptions for 70 yards last week. Vernon Davis was not targeted with any passes. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are the 10th Broncos tandem to amass 1,000 yards each in a season. Sanders is averaging 14.6 yards per catch and has a team-high six receiving TDs. Daniels has three and Thomas has five. Thomas has also earned the Broncos 60 first downs on the season.
The Chargers have lost three of its past four and fell last week 23-20 to the Oakland Raiders. Mike McCoy is in danger of losing his coaching job this offseason, and it is doubtful that an unlikely victory in this game saves it. The Chargers lost six straight games after beginning the season 2-2, and the roster will need a bit of an overhaul.
That may begin with the coaching position, unfortunately for McCoy. The Chargers are 10-point dogs for a reason, and it would take a semi-miraculous game from its key cogs to upset a Broncos team desperately needing a win for its postseason implications.