Andrew Luck, Colts Can Take Big Step in Race for AFC Supremacy With Strong Showing Against Chargers

Andrew LuckThe Indianapolis Colts are already the pseudo-champions of the NFC. They have won at San Francisco and beat visiting Seattle last week. The 49ers and Seahawks opened the season as NFC Super Bowl favorites, and Seattle still is at 11-2 to win the conference.

However, the Colts are, of course, in the AFC, where the offensively unstoppable Denver Broncos reside and are 5-1 overall Super Bowl favorites. Indianapolis is 18-1 entering their Week 6 Monday night game at San Diego, but the Colts will find themselves jumping up that list this week with two wins.

The Colts opened as two-point favorites on Bovada against the Chargers, with Live Betting available. It’s the first Monday Night Football game for Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning‘s capable replacement. Luck, the No. 1 overall pick last year from Stanford, rallied the Colts from a 28-23 fourth-quarter deficit last week against the Seahawks for a 34-28 win, Seattle’s first loss in its past 10 regular-season games.

Luck has already led nine game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in his 21 career games. Luck’s next such comeback will set the NFL record for a player in his first two seasons. That the Colts are 4-1 and sixth in the NFL in scoring at 27.8 points per game is made more impressive by the fact that three projected offensive starters have been lost for the season to injury: running back Vick Ballard, tight end Dwayne Allen and guard Donald Thomas.

Fellow running back Ahmad Bradshaw joined them on season-ending IR this week. That trade for Cleveland tailback Trent Richardson is looking very smart for Indy. The Colts, who are -200 favorites to win the AFC South, have covered eight straight games against teams with losing records.

Following Monday’s game, Indianapolis hosts Denver in Manning’s homecoming. That’s the unbeaten Broncos’ toughest test so far, and the first Luck-Manning matchup will be one of the most-hyped games of the season.

San Diego (2-3) has alternated losses and wins this season under new head coach Mike McCoy, the former Denver offensive coordinator. The Chargers were beaten 27-17 at Oakland last week despite 411 yards passing and two touchdowns from Philip Rivers. It was Rivers’ second straight 400-yard game; no quarterback has ever had three in a row.

Rivers has been reborn under McCoy, ranking fourth in the league in yards, third in passer rating, second in completion percentage and tied for No. 2 with 13 touchdown passes. He had been very turnover-prone the past two seasons but had been good in that regard in 2013 last week, when he threw three interceptions in the loss to the Raiders.

San Diego is struggling to run the ball, averaging just 90.4 yards per game. In addition, starter Ryan Mathews is iffy for Monday with a concussion suffered last week. Former Patriot Danny Woodhead has been quiet as a runner but very valuable as a receiver with 31 catches for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The biggest issue with San Diego has been defense, which ranks 29th in yards allowed at 406.0 per game. They are 40-1 to win the AFC.

The Chargers have beaten the Colts five of the past six meetings, but those were all with Manning under center for Indianapolis. The teams haven’t met since 2010.

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