The Los Angeles Chargers are set to wrap up the 2022 season on the road against the Denver Broncos. Brandon Staley’s team has already clinched a playoff spot, however they need either the Baltimore Ravens to lose, or they need to win themselves to secure the 5th seed in the AFC. Which is a big deal because it means the difference between playing the Tennessee Titans or Jacksonville Jaguars vs playing the Cincinnati Bengals or Buffalo Bills in the wild card round.
If the Ravens lose in the 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET set of games, the Chargers can afford to rest key players for all, or most of the game. However, if the Ravens win, the Chargers have to win this game to give themselves the best chance in the playoffs.
Vegas definitely believes the Ravens, without Lamar Jackson, are goin to lose as the line over on the DraftKings Sportsbook started at -3.5 for the Chargers but has flipped and now has the Broncos at -3.
Either way, they’re going to be playing against a Broncos team that is under new ownership, playing for an interim head coach, and looking to try and recapture some pride in themselves after a monumentally disappointing season.
Will that sway the minds of any of our writers in this week’s prediction? Let’s go ahead and see how they’re all feeling heading into this New Year’s Day matchup.
Michael Peterson: Like any game in the AFC West, I can’t help but predict this one coming down to the wire. The Broncos just gave the Chiefs everything it could handle and I have to believe they’ll do everything they can to try and hurt the Chargers’ chances of clinching the No. 5 seed in the AFC. Denver’s defense has always played Justin Herbert well and it’d be nice to see the him shake that pattern this week by having him throw multiple touchdowns.
Final Score: Chargers 20-17
Matthew Stanley: This game is hard to predict because it’s outcome may have more to do with one of the games earlier on Sunday than this actual game. If the Ravens lose, the Chargers lock into the 5 seed, which may be the most advantageous seeding, outside of the 1st seed bye, of wildcard weekend. Brandon Staley sounded like he is going to play the starters for at least a little bit of of the game no matter what, however if they already have the 5 seed locked in, I doubt most of the key starters, including Justin Herbert, play more than the 1st quarter. If that happens, I’m not super confident the Chargers backups can carry the W over even the hapless Denver Broncos. However, if the Ravens Win, I AM confident the Chargers starters, with the 5 seed on the line, take care of business.
Final Score: Broncos 17-13 (if the Ravens lose). Chargers 20-13 (if the Ravens win)
Garrett Sisti: If the Ravens win & the Chargers have something to play for this should be a cakewalk. The Broncos always play the Chargers tough and playing in Mile High has been less than kind in the past but the team has too much on the line to fall to a bad team like Denver. Now if the Chargers are resting starters? Forget about it. Defensively, the Chargers can hang but Chase Daniel will not be able to move the ball against the Broncos secondary. It will be an ugly low scoring affair. I think the Bengals beat the Lamar Jackson-less Ravens at home so I think the second scenario is more likely and that’s what I’ll base the score on
Final Score: 17-13 Broncos