Greg Cote

Greg Cote’s Thursday night NFL pick: Chargers at Broncos

CHARGERS (5-2) at BRONCOS (5-1)

Line: DEN by 7½

Cote’s pick: DEN 31-27

TV: 8:25 p.m., CBS/NFL (airing in South Florida)

NFL Week 8 unfurls with a matchup of Game of the Week heft in a duel for first place in AFC West. Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers lead crazy-efficient offenses that both have scored on 53 consecutive red-zone trips inside the opponent’s 20 – tied for longest active streak in league. And Manning is 9-2 on Thursdays, Rivers 4-1. After Manning set the all-time TD record Sunday night, you might expect a falloff on an extra-short week, but Peyton seems impervious to such mortal concerns. Chargers broke Broncos’ four-game series win streak in last meeting by pounding the ball (Rivers threw only 20 passes), but Denver’s run-D is better this season. Expect an aerial shootout. A hard, fast rule of mine is to always pick Manning at home; Mile High (not Seattle) is NFL’s best-bet home-field advantage. The wagering line disrespects Bolts a bit, though. Think Rivers will keep it tight.