Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)
I’m pretty torn on this one. On one hand, the Chargers could be completely flat off of last week’s insane last second win in Kansas City. Favorites generally struggle off of close road wins as underdogs, going 27-51 ATS off of a win by 3 or fewer as road favorites since 2002. However, they are only favored by 1 point and the Chargers probably won’t overlook the division leading Bengals when they need every win they can get to stay in the playoff race. The Chargers usually do well with must win games late in the season. They are 32-10 straight up during weeks 13-17 in the Philip Rivers era and, given that, it’s no surprise that they are 11-4 ATS in situations where they essentially need to just win, as underdogs or favorites of 3 or less.
The Bengals, meanwhile, are not the same team on the road as they are at home. They’ve lost in Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, and Baltimore (3 of those losses came as favorites) and won by just a field goal in Buffalo and Detroit. All 6 of those teams have worse records than they do. They are 1-4-1 ATS on the road this season. They’re also coming off of a fluky game in their last game, a home win over the Browns. In that game, they scored 41 points despite just 10 first downs, the first time in at least the last 25 years that a team had done that. They won’t be able to dominate the turnover battle, block 2 punts, and have multiple return touchdowns every week. Since 1989, teams are 16-34 ATS off of a game in which they scored 21+ points despite 10 or fewer first downs. Teams tend to be overconfident and overvalued in that scenario.
However, the Bengals have had a bye in between so maybe that will nullify some of that. I also don’t think they are overvalued. They are moving the chains at just a 72% rate, but their defense has held up despite injuries and opponents are moving the chains at a mere 68% rate. They may have some trouble with the Chargers’ explosive offense, which leads the NFL, moving the chains at an 82% rate, but, as good as the Chargers’ offense is, their defense might be equally bad, allowing opponents to move the chains at an 80% rate.
If Alex Smith and the Chiefs can have an explosive offensive performance against them, so can Andy Dalton and the Bengals, even on the road. The Chargers get into a lot of shootouts and this could be another one. I think this line is actually right where it should be with San Diego favored by just a point. At the end of the day, I’m going with the Philip Rivers and the Chargers at home in December over the Bengals on the road, but it could really go either way.
San Diego Chargers 27 Cincinnati Bengals 24
Pick against spread: San Diego -1