Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (4-7)
Last week, I took the Chargers for a big play for several reasons. Philip Rivers was 31-19 ATS in week 11 or later. In the last 3 years, as mediocre as they’ve been, they were still 10-5 ATS in week 11 or later, including a cover the week before in Denver. As underdogs, as they were last week, Rivers was 12-4 ATS in week 11 or later, including 3-0 ATS as home dogs. I also felt the Ravens were not as good as their record and I noted their struggles as non-divisional road favorites in the last 2 seasons, going 1-5 ATS in those spots, including a loss in almost exactly this same situation in San Diego the year before.
Well, I thought I had it perfectly handicapped. The Chargers led throughout, including 13-3 with a few minutes left in the game. The Ravens a scored to make it 13-10, but the Chargers had the ball and a 3 point lead with about 4 minutes left. That is 4 minute offense time, go conservative and try to run as much as much time off the clock as you can. Norv Turner, instead, passed on 2nd and 3rd down and the Ravens got the ball back quickly with time to do damage.
However, good defense by the Chargers had the Ravens backed up to 4th and 29 and unless the Ravens could convert, they would lose and I would cover. So what happened? Flacco dropped back, all of his receivers were covered downfield, so he checked down to Ray Rice who broke about 4 tackles and somehow converted for 30 yards. Or did he? Replays showed he was short, but on review, the refs upheld the call. The Ravens drove down for a field goal and then won it late in overtime. It was an infuriating loss for me on a bad week.
That being said, I still feel like the Chargers were the right side, but they just got unlucky and this week, I once again feel they are the right side. We’re getting line value with the Chargers. Last week, this line was San Diego -3. Now it’s Cincinnati -2.5. That’s a 5.5 point swing. For what? Because the Bengals blew out the crappy Raiders? The Ravens did that too. Because the Chargers barely lost to the Ravens? This makes no sense. The Ravens were only -1.5 in San Diego and they barely covered. This line suggests the Bengals are better than the Ravens. I know I’ve been on record calling the Ravens overrated many times, but when the Ravens and Bengals played, the Bengals lost by like 30. There’s no way they’re better than them.
The net points per drive method of computing line value gives us a real line of Cincinnati -1.5, which means that because of the line movement, we are now getting line value. The Bengals rank 8th in net points per drive at .4 (net points per drive being offensive points divided by total drives minus defensive points allowed divided by total drives). The Chargers are 16th at -0.03. If you take the difference and multiply by 11 (average drives per game) and add 3 points for homefield, you get around Cincinnati -1.5. In spite of the huge line movement, the public is still pounding the Bengals. This is significant because the public always loses in the long run, so fading the public in the long run makes sense. I do it whenever I feel it’s appropriate.
Oh and all of those trends I mentioned earlier when talking about last week that were in the Chargers’ favor, those are still in play here. Philip Rivers is 31-20 ATS in week 11 or later. In the last 3 years, as mediocre as they’ve been, they’re still 10-6 ATS in week 11 or later. As underdogs, as they are here, Rivers is 12-5 ATS in week 11 or later, including 3-1 ATS as home dogs. They’re even better in week 13 or later, going 23-14 ATS in the Philip Rivers era, including 8-2 ATS as dogs, 2-0 ATS as home dogs.
Actually, because they lost last week, it opens up a few other trends. Home dogs tend to cover off a loss as home dogs, going 59-40 ATS since 2002. Meanwhile, teams are 26-10 ATS since 2002 off a loss at home in overtime, excluding road dogs. Home dogs are 8-1 ATS off a loss at home in overtime since 1989, including 5-0 ATS off a loss as home dogs. Once again, it’s a big play on the Chargers.
Public lean: Cincinnati (70% range)
Sharps lean: CIN 20 SD 5
Final update: This is one where I’m going to disagree with the sharps.
San Diego Chargers 24 Cincinnati Bengals 17 Upset Pick +120
Pick against spread: San Diego +2.5 (-110) 4 units