What promises to be one of the more meaningful Thursday night games, the 5-2 San Diego Chargers march into Denver with the hope of seizing the division lead. Rivers appears to be the mid-season favorite for MVP. His gaudy numbers are impressive given the rotating backfield and suspect defense of the Chargers. Manning tends to struggle against the Chargers whether McCoy, Turner, or Schottenheimer is coaching the team. Flashbacks of Antonio Cromartie, Darren Sproles, and last year’s Thursday night game must haunt Manning, but tonight he will get his revenge. Denver is currently the best team in the league. It is difficult to see them losing a home game against any opponent, following their 42-17 shellacking of the 49ers.
Denver Broncos 24, San Diego 17 (+7.5)
Ah, the 1-5 New York Jets square off against the 4-2 New England Patriots. The poor Jets have played formidable opponents for five straight weeks. Aside from the debacle in San Diego, all of these games have been competitive until the end. Critics want to point the finger at Geno Smith, but the real problem is the wide receiver core. Eric Decker and Jace Amaro should not be the best receivers on a team that came into the season with playoff aspirations. Even though I am under the conviction that Smith may pan out to be a good pocket passer, it is time for Michael Vick. He has the ability to score 35 points on any given day, even though he is also capable of committing five turnovers.Geno Smith is not capable of leading an offense to 30+ points. On the other side of the ball is a New England Patriots team that appears to have found their identity. Brady is Brady and the defense played well in their past two games. It is hard to see the Jets winning, but New York will keep it close.
New England Patriots 28, New York Jets 19 (+9.5)
The Indianapolis Colts face off with the Houston Texans Thursday night in what hopes to be the first competitive Thursday night game of the season. The Colts (3-2) played like expected. They lost tight games to Philadelphia and Denver, while thrashing divisional foes Jacksonville and Tennessee. They also looked dominant against Baltimore this past Sunday, despite the final score. Andrew Luck has played well while Trent Richardson remains ineffective. The addition of Ahmad Bradshaw has really diversified the offensive attack for Indianapolis. The defense has slowly improved, conceding 30.5 points per game in the first two weeks and 15.7 in the past three games. Houston (3-2) could significantly boost their playoff odds with a win on Thursday. Houston still has four games against the Titans and Jaguars. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a game manager while the injury-prone Arian Foster and Alfred Blue carry the team to victory. The defense for Houston is not amazing. It is 15th in DVOA and has not had an impressive perfomance, aside from the inept Raiders. The Texans have a really good shot at the playoffs, but they are not a great team. They are a solid team with an incredibly easy schedule. Thursday night will play out like Week 3 for the Texans. Like Eli Manning, Luck will lead the Colts to victory.
Indianapolis Colts 30 (-2.5), Houston Texans 20
The theme of the Thursday night games this year is divisional matchups. This week’s game, the Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings, features two teams whose performances have varied. Both teams are 2-2, but the road to that record has not been easy. Aaron Rodgers needed to silence critics during Sunday’s game against Chicago, and did so by tossing 4 touchdowns. Teddy Bridgewater proved that he deserved to be a higher pick in this year’s draft, albeit it was against the sub-par Atlanta defense. Green Bay still has its kinks to work out, such as Eddie Lacy’s three yards per carry. Still, Green Bay’s at home and looks poised to start making their postseason run. Bridgewater and the Vikings will keep it close, but they will fall short at the end.
Green Bay Packers 30, Minnesota Vikings 21 (+9.5)
Thursday night’s game will feature two teams whose wins came against the lowly AFC South. The New York Giants (1-2) have looked anything but impressive in their first three games while the Redskins have dealt with an early season quarterback switch. This will be Kirk Cousins 7th professional start at quarterback, but his second against the New York Giants. In one of the uglier games from last season, the Giants held Cousins to under 200 yards in a 20-6 win. The outcome should be different this time. The Giants’ offense lacks depth at wide receiver, and Victor Cruz’s performance fluctuates every down. On top of this, Rashad Jennings is not the upgrade at running back the Giants needed to be a playoff contender. Washington still needs to prove they are a good team, but for right now, I am on the Cousins bandwagon.
Washington 30 (-3.5), New York 24
Thursday Night Record: 3-0
With Spread: 3-0