Carolina Panthers (4-9) at San Diego Chargers (5-8)
I picked the Chargers to win at home against the Ravens and Bengals respectively in week 12 and 13 because, among other reasons, they always start playing really well at this point in the season, even when their season has been lost. Well, they couldn’t quite close the deal in either of those games, though they made it close and probably should have beaten the Ravens, but Ray Rice converted an improbable (and maybe poorly called) 4th and 29. Because of this, I stayed away from them in Pittsburgh last week, even though all the trends said they’d cover. Well, what did they do? They not only covered as 7.5 point dogs, but dominated the game, even leading 27-3 at one point.
Finally, it appears they’ve gone on their late season run and I can say with as much confidence as I can about a team that’s burned me before this season that the Chargers have a good chance to now win out with games against the Panthers, Jets, and Raiders. They should continue that momentum from last week. They are now 22-10 ATS in week 14 or later, including 7-2 ATS over the last 3 seasons, even though they’ve had nothing to play for. At home, they are 12-5 ATS.
We’re also getting line value with the Chargers. They rank 18th in net points per drive at -0.08, while the Panthers rank 23rd at -0.38. If you take the difference and multiply that by 11 and add 2.5 points for home field, you get a real line of San Diego -6. In spite of that, they are not a publicly backed favorite as the public is on Carolina. I hate publicly backed dogs, so that’s another reason to take San Diego. They’re also in a bad spot as non-conference road dogs of 3 or more are 10-20 ATS since 1989 off a divisional win as home dogs of 3 or more.
This would be a bigger play on the Chargers if not for a few things. One, I’ve obviously been burned with them before. It’s hard to trust them. Maybe now that they got their one big win as big dogs they’ll go back to the way they were before and struggle to win in a new dynamic in a game they’re supposed to win or at least keep close.
The second reason is that a good trend is on Carolina’s side. Teams are 105-62 ATS as dogs before being favorites in the last 2 seasons and they host the Raiders next week. When the opponent will next be dogs, teams are 116-59 ATS in that spot since 2008 and the Chargers go to New York to play the Jets next week. When all 3 games (current, next, opponent’s next) are non-divisional, that trend is 35-15 ATS since 2008.
Third, while net points per drive says we’re getting line value with the Chargers, DVOA paints a different picture. The Panthers rank 16th in DVOA and weighted DVOA, while the Chargers rank 23rd and 22nd respectively. DVOA is net points per drive based, but takes into account other things like schedule. This makes sense as the Panthers are in the much tougher NFC (AFC teams are 6-12 ATS against NFC teams as favorites this season) and also are in one of the tougher divisions, the NFC South, while the Chargers are in the weak AFC West. The AFC West is 5-9 SU and 6-8 ATS against the NFC South this year, 2-8 SU and 3-7 ATS excluding the Broncos. Still, the Chargers are the pick.
Public lean: Carolina (60% range)
San Diego Chargers 27 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against spread: San Diego -3 (-110) 2 units