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Chargers at Broncos

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The Broncos play their final regular season game at Sports Authority Field on Thursday, but it definitely won't be the last home contest for Denver. The Chargers are in desperation mode at 6-7, entering Week 15 one game behind Baltimore and Miami for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC. San Diego needs a win in the worst way, but can it duplicate a strong home effort from this past Sunday?

The Lightning Bolts struck the Giants early and often in a 37-14 rout as three-point favorites in Week 14. San Diego jumped to a commanding 24-0 halftime lead thanks to three touchdown passes from Philip Rivers, while the Chargers' defense intercepted Eli Manning twice in the victory. The Chargers evened their home mark at 3-3, as Mike McCoy's team rebounded from a defeat to the Bengals one week earlier in a 17-10 setback.

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Denver continued its home domination, in spite of falling behind Tennessee, 21-10 in the second quarter. The Broncos blitzed the Titans, 31-7 in the second half to record a 51-28 rout and easily cash as 13-point favorites. Peyton Manning attempted 59 passes, but found a way to throw four more touchdowns to increase his season total to 45, while hitting four different receivers for scores. Denver improved to 7-0 SU and 5-1-1 ATS at home, as the Broncos went over the 40-point mark for the first time since a Week 8 blowout of Washington.

The last time the Broncos and Chargers faced off came in Week 10 at Qualcomm Stadium, as Denver came out with a 28-20 road triumph. The Broncos barely covered the seven-point number, in spite of building a 28-6 lead in the third quarter. Manning burned the Chargers' for four touchdowns, including a career-best three scores by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Denver has beaten San Diego four straight times, including the last three since the arrival of Manning with the Broncos prior to the 2012 season.

The Chargers have been listed as a three-point underdog or more three times on the highway this season, resulting in a 2-1 SU and 2-0-1 ATS record. San Diego won outright as 7 ½-point 'dogs at Philadelphia in Week 2, while pulling off a solid divisional triumph at Kansas City in Week 12 in a 41-38 shootout victory. The lone straight-up defeat came in Week 3 at Tennessee, as the Chargers pushed as three-point underdogs in a 20-17 setback as the Titans scored the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute.

Since the start of last season, the Broncos have put together a stellar 14-2 SU and 11-4-1 ATS record at Sports Authority Field with the two losses coming to Houston last September and the heartbreaking defeat to Baltimore in the second round of the 2012 playoffs. The Broncos continue to be a machine to the 'over' at home, cashing in six of seven contests in Colorado this season.

Denver wide receiver Wes Welker has been ruled out of Thursday's matchup after suffering a concussion in the win over Tennessee, his second concussion of the season. Welker has scored just two touchdowns in the last seven games after finding the end zone eight times in the first six contests.

VegasInsider.com handicapper Antony Dinero gives San Diego a shot here on the road, "The Chargers have no room for error if they want to get back to .500 and stay in the playoff race, so expect a desperate football team to show up for this AFC West clash. Without Welker, Manning has one less option, but odds are good he'll be able to do plenty of damage against a porous defense. Fortunately, Rivers is capable of winning a shootout, and this may be the week where second-string tight end LaDarius Green re-emerges as a game-breaker. However it goes, San Diego has to do whatever it takes, even if that means giving Ryan Mathews a season-high in carries for the second week in a row."

Denver is listed as a 10 ½-point favorite on Thursday, as the Broncos have cashed three of four times this season when laying double-digits. The total sits between 56 and 57 depending on where you shop, as the first meeting finished 'under' 56. The game kicks off at 8:30 PM EST and can be seen on the NFL Network.

You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at rogers@vegasinsider.com

Kevin Rogers can be followed on Twitter at virogers.

  
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