Was it Brock Osweiler or the Colts?

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

Brock Osweiler had a career game for the Broncos, but it was against the Colts.
© USA Today Sports Images

Brock Osweiler starred off the bench as the Denver Broncos dominated the Indianapolis Colts in Thursday night football. Numbers and notes, plus stat previews for Chargers/Chiefs and Rams/Seahawks today in VSiN City. 

Thursday NFL: Brock Osweiler has career game vs. disinterested Colts

A lot of factors had to fall into place for Brock Osweiler to, at least temporarily, look like a star quarterback. First, starting QB Trevor Siemian had to get hurt! After throwing an early interception, Siemian had to leave the game with a shoulder injury. That put the more experienced Osweiler on the field against:

  • An expansion-caliber opponent
  • That was motivated to lose
  • Who had been horrible in second halves all season

Denver (-3) 25, Indianapolis 13 

Yards-per-Play: Denver 6.2, Indianapolis 4.3

Total Yards: Denver 462, Indianapolis 228

Third Down Pct: Denver 47%, Indianapolis 46%

Rushing Yards: Denver 213, Indianapolis 70

Passing Stats: Denver 17-26-1-249, Indianapolis 17-30-0-158

Turnovers: Denver 1, Indianapolis 0

Touchdown Drive Lengths: Denver 75-79-67, Indianapolis 50

Dominating stats. Indy’s defense seemed happy to let the Broncos run clock when they should have been fighting to get stops. The Colts are currently in line for the #3 draft pick if they can keep losing and San Francisco with Jimmy Garappolo wins one more game. Basically, a MUST-LOSE situation. 

Indy’s Second Half Drives

12 plays, 54 yards for a field goal and a 13-7 lead…then

3 plays, negative five yards and a punt

5 plays, 16 yards and a punt

7 plays, 20 yards and a loss on downs

1 play, negative one yard taking a knee

Denver’s Second Half Drives (starting when down 13-7)

9 plays, 79 yards for a touchdown

3 plays, 67 yards for a touchdown

16 plays, 62 yards for a field goal

9 plays, 32 yards and a loss on downs with less than a minute to go

After Indianapolis took that 13-7 lead after its first drive of the second half, Denver won scoreboard 18-0 and “drive yardage” 240-30 the rest of the night. Reminiscent of Indy’s second half “losses” to Seattle 36-3, Tennessee 27-9, Pittsburgh 17-7, and Tennessee (again) 14-3. At least those are playoff contenders. Denver is not. 

Does Osweiler’s big night mean the Broncos might offer value in their final two games of the season at Washington and at home vs. Kansas City? Well, Washington just went through the motions the past two weeks in bad losses vs. Dallas and the LA Chargers. Kansas City has been slumping, but might be fighting for its playoff lives in the season finale. Who’s to say big Brock can’t close out the season on a Mile High note? 

Denver moves to 5-9 with the win. Indianapolis falls to 3-11, finishing at Baltimore and vs. Houston. 

As we mentioned yesterday, VSiN City will run seven-days-a-week through the bowls. We’ll save an expanded preview of the huge New England/Pittsburgh game for our bonus Saturday report. Today, we’ll look at the “first place” battles in the league’s two West divisions...starting with Saturday night’s Chargers/Chiefs showdown in the AFC West. 

NFL Saturday Preview: Is Gus Bradley the key name to know for handicapping LA Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs?

Kansas City was the World Champion of September, sweeping New England and Philadelphia in its first two games. The Chargers had some Keystone Kops elements to early season action…but started clicking several weeks ago. LAC is in better form of late. Neither is seen right now as a serious threat to New England or Pittsburgh at the top of the AFC. Both have time to become more dangerous. 

LA Chargers (7-6) at Kansas City (7-6)

Las Vegas Line: LA Chargers by 1, total of 46

Estimated Market Power Ratings: LA Chargers 81, Kansas City 77

Back on Tuesday, the Chargers were -2 on the road, which created a conundrum for our estimate of “market” Power Ratings The drop to -1 makes more sense, but is still out of whack with prior pricing. The market is trying to catch up to LAC (7-2 straight up and ATS its last nine games), and catch “down” to Kansas City (2-6 straight up and ATS its last eight games). Has it overshot the mark?


LA Chargers: 5.9 on offense, 5.2 on defense (vs. #26 schedule)

Kansas City: 6.2 on offense, 5.6 on defense (vs. #12 schedule)

Part of the reason the Chargers are so hot is that they’ve run into a slew of struggling teams. Though, in road testers, they took Jacksonville to overtime and hung around respectably at New England (non-cover loss, but a YPP win of 6.7 to 5.0 and a rushing edge of 157-97). Kansas City gets the nod in this stat comparison because of a tougher schedule strength according to Jeff Sagarin of USA Today. Nothing here that would suggest, through 13 games, that San Diego is significantly superior. 

Key Passing Stats 

LA Chargers: 7.8 yards-per-pass attempt, 23 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown

Kansas City: 8.0 yards-per-pass attempt, 23 TD’s, 7 interceptions thrown

Same story here. Kansas City gets the slightest of nods in the passing game. Even though Alex Smith has thrown a few recent picks compared to his normal conservative play…he’s never going to be as reckless as Philip Rivers. Solid stuff from both veterans. 

Pass Defense 

LA Chargers: 6.4 yppa allowed; 14 TD’s allowed, 16 interceptions

Kansas City: 7.2 yppa allowed; 19 TD’s allowed, 11 interceptions

We’re going to see in today’s numbers that the Chargers defense is playing very well off the media radar. Yes, a soft schedule has helped. And, that stellar TD/INT ratio was spiked by getting five picks off the Bills and Nathan Peterman. Still, only 14 TD’s allowed is very strong this deep into the season. Kansas City’s not scaring people any more in this category.  

Impact Defense 

LA Chargers: 40% third down pct-allowed, 22 takeaways, 37 sacks

Kansas City: 42% third down pct-allowed, 17 takeaways, 24 sacks

Third downs are an issue for both teams…and will be a problem in the playoffs. But San Diego again jumps off the page by making a lot of impact plays. Generally speaking…Philip Rivers gets the credit when things are going well, and the blame when they’re not. The Chargers are winning with DEFENSE during this recent stretch, holding their last eight opponents to 16, 0, 21, 17, 24, 6, 10, 13 in regulation. The 21 was on the road against Tom Brady. The 24 was in a very long garbage time to Buffalo in a 54-24 laugher. Above, you see a 61-39 edge over the Chiefs in impact plays…which doesn’t equalize after you adjust for schedule strength. 

If we learn nothing else from today’s handicapping, let’s be aware of what the Chargers are doing on DEFENSE during this good run. Some of the “Look at what Drew Brees can do when he has a defense” storylines should swing West to consider Rivers and the Chargers in that same light. Gus Bradley is the new defensive coordinator. He was head coach of the defensive-minded Jacksonville Jaguars the past four seasons. You can see his footprints all over those stats.  

Important market influences respect defense, particularly in football. That may be why modeling systems are getting the Chargers as a short road favorite. It’s not so much “Kansas City has fallen apart.” But “Bradley’s turned this into a quality defense and the market hasn’t noticed.” If this unit is destined to improve even more as they continue to get the hang of the system, LAC could become a more serious threat next month. Good test here “with expectations” at a tough road site against an experienced quarterback. 

NFL Sunday Preview: A breakout year for the LA Rams could become a scramble for a Wildcard if they can’t win in Seattle

Earlier this season, the Seattle Seahawks travelled down to Los Angeles and beat the Rams 16-10. It was a turnover-fueled win. Seattle lost total yardage 375-241, and YPP 5.3 to 3.7. But a 5-2 edge in takeaways helped them eke out a victory. On one hand, something that extreme probably won’t be repeated. But young Rams quarterback Jared Goff will be trying to navigate a turnover landmine at a very tough road site in front of a rabid crowd. 

LA Rams (9-4) at Seattle (8-5)

Las Vegas Line: Seattle by 2.5, total of 47.5

Estimated Market Power Ratings: LA Rams 83, Seattle 82

That one game lead in the standings for LAR won’t mean much with a loss here. Both teams would be 9-5, but Seattle would hold the tie-breaker because of a regular season sweep. Conversely, if the Rams win, they’ll be two ahead with two to play


LA Rams: 6.0 on offense, 5.3 on defense (vs. #17 schedule)

Seattle: 5.6 on offense, 5.1 on defense (vs. #29 schedule)

The Rams strength of schedule has picked up in recent weeks, thanks to playing Minnesota, New Orleans, and Philadelphia in the past month. That gauntlet lifted them to league average after an easy start. Seattle’s played the fourth easiest schedule in the league according to Sagarin. Clear advantage to the Rams in this indicator stat. A superior YPP differential (0.7 to 0.5 against the tougher schedule. 

Key Passing Stats 

LA Rams: 8.1 yards-per-pass attempt, 22 TD’s, 6 interceptions thrown

Seattle: 7.4 yards-per-pass attempt, 29 TD’s, 12 interceptions thrown

Russell Wilson keeps finding the end zone, which helps make up for the lower per-attempt mark. But interceptions are a concern. Whenever a quarterback believes he HAS to make plays to win…turnover counts go up. Tough to see Seattle as a serious postseason threat because the balance just isn’t there. And, that’s happened against the kind of schedule that could help pretenders fake balance. Seattle needs Wilson to be a hero in every big game. 

Pass Defense 

LA Rams: 6.8 yppa allowed; 18 TD’s allowed, 15 interceptions

Seattle: 6.8 yppa allowed; 16 TD’s allowed, 10 interceptions

Similar numbers, but an edge for the Rams in interceptions. To this point, the Rams are getting the best of the comparison.

Impact Defense 

LA Rams: 39% third down pct-allowed, 22 takeaways, 40 sacks

Seattle: 38% third down pct-allowed, 20 takeaways, 32 sacks

Similarities again, but more sacks for the Rams, against the tougher schedule. Basically, opponents are trying to keep up with what Jared Goff can do…but make a lot of mistakes trying to do that. The problem is…the Rams appear to be overloading those stats against lousy opponents. They really weren’t a high impact defense against that gauntlet of Vikings/Saints/Eagles.

At Minnesota: 0 takeaways, 0 sacks

Vs. New Orleans: 0 takeaways, 3 sacks

Vs. Philadelphia: 1 takeaway, 2 sacks

So, if the Rams are matched up against a non-contender, their defense will abuse the opposing offense's attempts to play catch up. Against quality, LAR is much less likely to take the ball away or devastate the opponent with a well-timed sack. 

Given the 1-2 straight up mark in that gauntlet, it’s hard to trust the Rams in this very important litmus test. The most widely known analytics sites don’t agree on how good they are (or aren’t). Football Outsiders currently has the Rams as #1 in the league. Massey-Peabody has them at #6. Both Jeff Sagarin of USA Today and the ESPN Football Power Index only have them at #10. There’s enough respect for LAR at plus 2.5 points Sunday to look at them in “basic strategy” teasers at plus 8.5 (moving the line six points to cross both the 3 and the 7). 

Before wrapping up for today, let’s check in for another “Market Watch” for Saturday’s bowl games…

College Football Bowls: “Market Watch” for Saturday’s quintuple-header

One final “Market Watch” for the first five games on the postseason schedule. Be sure to watch VSiN programming all day Saturday for the latest line moves and big bet bulletins in advance of kickoffs throughout the day. 

New Orleans Bowl

Opening Line: Troy -7 over North Texas, total of 60.5

Wednesday Line: Troy -6.5 over North Texas, total of 62

Current Line: Troy -7 over North Texas, total of 62

Troy is now a solid -7 in Las Vegas (as of publication deadlines). There are some offshore indicators that 7.5 might come into play soon. Let’s see if sharp dog lovers bide their time for a higher number between now and kickoff. 

Cure Bowl

Opening Line: W. Kentucky -4.5 over Georgia State, total of 50.5

Wednesday Line: W. Kentucky -6 over Georgia State, total of 51.5

Current Line: W. Kentucky -6.5 over Georgia State, total of 53

Favorite and Over money here, suggesting that the public is starting to make its present felt in Day One action. Not all stores are at Western Kentucky -6.5 yet, but it’s the most common number out there. 

Las Vegas Bowl

Opening Line: Oregon -7.5 over Boise State, total of 59

Wednesday Line: Oregon -7.5 over Boise State, total of 59.5

Current Line: Oregon -7 over Boise State, total of 61.5

Oregon star running back Royce Freeman announced that he would skip this game to prepare for the NFL draft. Sharps interested in Boise State figured that was a good time to take the hook! The line has dropped down to Oregon -7 for the time being. Interesting that the total jumped two points from our last report. If a star RB is out, that suggests more passing…which creates higher scoring games because the clock stops more often. 

(Quick aside…in the debate about whether or not the National Playoff should expand to eight teams…it has to be noted that star players on elite teams have very little motivation to risk injury in THREE postseason games AFTER their conference championship game. You think injury is a threat in just one game? Three super-intense battles between elite athletes in a three-to-four-week period? Insane for an NFL-bound player to accept that risk without compensation.)

New Mexico Bowl

Opening Line: Colorado State -5 over Marshall, total of 56

Wednesday Line: Colorado State -5.5 over Marshall, total of 58

Current Line: Colorado State -5.5 over Marshall, total of 58

A quiet week so far. 

Camellia Bowl

Opening Line: Arkansas State -3.5 over MTSU, total of 60.5

Current Line: Arkansas State -3.5 over MTSU, total of 62.5

Wednesday: Arkansas State -3.5 over MTSU, total of 63.5

Westgate was showing ASU -4 Thursday evening, but most other locales were still at -3.5. Perhaps that’s a sign that we’re about to see a lift across the board. The total is up again. Looks like good weather and public tendencies have pushed all five opening totals. 

More “Market Watch” analysis early next week for a new batch of games. 

Normally we say “that wraps up the week” at this point. No wraps through the bowls! We’ll see you again tomorrow to talk more football, and to go in-depth in the Patriots/Steelers matchup. Sunday, we’ll run boxscore summaries from a handicapping perspective for all five Saturday bowl games, and the two NFL matchups (Bears/Lions and Chargers/Chiefs). 

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