Bettors are ready for a shootout when the San Diego Chargers (4-5 SU, 4-5 ATS) meet the Denver Broncos (3-6 SU, 3-6 ATS) in the Monday nighter (8:30 PM ET, ESPN), but Philip Rivers could be without his biggest weapon when the teams kick off at Qualcomm Stadium.

Favorite target Antonio Gates is considered questionable for the Chargers with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, and it doesn’t look like he’ll play. Gates, who leads San Diego with 663 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, didn’t practice this week.

Gates didn’t play in the Bolts’ 29-23 win at Houston in Week 9, when Rivers’ 28-yard TD strike to Seyi Ajirotutu with 5:17 left lifted them to the payday as 3-point chalk. Ajirotutu finished with 111 yards on four catches with two scores for San Diego, which is 6-2 O/U in its last eight games.

The good news for Chargers backers is reinforcements are on the way. Malcolm Floyd and Legedu Naanee are set to return to the lineup after dealing with respective hamstring injuries, although Vincent Jackson (team suspension) remains in the doghouse.


No Gates, no problem


Odds makers and public bettors alike don’t seem too concerned with Gates’ potential absence.

Sportsbooks opened San Diego as 9.5-point faves, but it had been bet up to -10 at most outlets as of press time. One offshore was holding the initial line.

Matchups on the field aside, recent head-to-head meetings certaintly point to a San Diego win ATS on Monday. The Bolts are 6-1-1 ATS (6-2 SU, 6-2 O/U) in the last eight games between the teams.


Be OVERly concerned


Spread wagers get all the attention, but the 50.5-point total should be at the forefront for this week’s Monday nighter.

Denver’s fifth-ranked offense (373.3 YPG) and 30th-ranked scoring defense (28.0 PPG) have conspired to make it the sharpest ‘over’ bet in the NFL this season. The Broncos blew past the 44-point total in their 49-29 victory over Kansas City last week to sit at 7-2 O/U on the year.

Second in the league in passing (296.6 YPG), Denver should be able to move the ball against San Diego, but I doubt it’ll do much to hold the home team off the scoreboard.

For all their struggles this season, the Chargers lead the NFL in total offense (420.2 YPG) and passing (312.4 YPG), and are fifth in scoring (26.6 PPG). Gates should be out and running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) could be slowed down, but San Diego is going to get the ball into the end zone.


Track meet, track record


Besides, the Broncos’ trends back the ‘over’ in a big way. Dating back to last season, Denver is 12-2 O/U in its last 14 games, and has played ‘over’ the total in 10 of its last 11 matchups against AFC opponents.

If you need more fuel for the ‘over’ fire, consider the Broncos’ 7-1 O/U mark in their last eight on the road and the Chargers’ 7-2 O/U record in their last nine as a home favorite.


Rocky Mountain high?


Denver’s 20-point win over Kansas City at Invesco Field last week didn’t do justice to just how dominating the Broncos were in cruising to the bank as 1-point underdogs.

Denver led 35-0 at one point, held the Chiefs to 51 rushing yards, and got a career-best game from Knowshon Moreno as it snapped its four-game ATS and SU losing skid.

While Kyle Orton and the Broncos’ offense scored more than 20 points for only the second time this season, bettors should be looking at Denver’s pass defense with San Diego on tap.

Yes, Kansas City racked up many of its 433 passing yards in garbage time, but it still torched Denver’s pass defense when the unit knew the pass was coming. The Bolts sport the best air attack in the league, so that doesn’t bode well for the Broncos’ chances of covering the number.