Indianapolis Colts (4-1) at San Diego Chargers (2-3)
I was dead wrong about the Colts this season. In my defense, the logic was sound. The Colts were not an 11 win team last year. 7 of their 11 wins came by a touchdown or less against a team that finished with a record of 7-9 or worse. They had a terrible offensive line and defense and finished the season 25th in DVOA, which I think is a much more accurate measure of level of play than record. They started the season basically playing the way they did last year, almost losing to the Raiders at home and then losing at home to a solid Miami team.
However, in the three weeks since, they’ve blown out the 49ers in San Francisco, the Jaguars in Jacksonville, and beaten the Seahawks at home. Andrew Luck has had a fantastic year in his 2nd year in the league, as a result of his own development, an improved offensive line, and a new offensive system for which he’s a better fit. His completion percentage is up 8.1%, his yards per attempt up 3/10 of a yard, and his touchdown to interception rate has improved from 23/18 to 7/2. Defensively, off-season additions have made an impact, as has the presence of Head Coach and defensive mind Chuck Pagano, who is fortunately in remission after missing most of last season with cancer. They have moved the chains 83% of the time offensively, as opposed to 71% for their opponents, a differential that is tied for 2nd best in the NFL with Denver, and only behind New Orleans.
All that being said, I actually love San Diego in this spot this week. They’re no slouch because of their offensively dominance this season. Philip Rivers been very impressive, completing 73.7% of his passes for an average of 8.5 YPA, 13 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, as the offense moves the chains on a very impressive 81% of opportunities. He’s doing that without much of a supporting cast. Mike McCoy needs to be given a ton of credit. The defense is pathetic, allowing opponents to move the chains on 82% of opportunities, and they were even worse against the Raiders with Dwight Freeney now out for the season. They made Terrelle Pryor look like John Elway. However, the Chargers can definitely pull the upset in the right situation and I think this is the right situation.
The Colts are coming over from the Eastern Time Zone to the Western Time Zone to play this game at night. The game will start around 8:30 in the internal clocks of the Colts and go to about midnight. Meanwhile, it will run from about 5:30 to about 9 in the internal clocks of the Chargers. That gives them a significant difference. Since 1989, Western Time Zone teams are 47-20 ATS at home against a team from the Eastern Time Zone at night.
It doesn’t stop there, however. This could be a very bad spot for the Colts, as road favorites off of an upset home win against the Seahawks before a huge game against the Broncos in Indianapolis next week. Not only is Denver probably the best team in the NFL, but it’ll be Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis. They could easily be caught looking forward to that against the Chargers here. The Chargers, meanwhile, go to Jacksonville next week, when they will be road favorites. Last week, they lost as road favorites in Oakland, so they’ll be completely focused for a superior opponent here.
Since 1989, teams are 20-36 ATS as non-divisional road favorites before being non-divisional home favorites. Meanwhile, non-divisional home dogs are 71-38 ATS before being divisional road favorites. There are not many situations where a team is home dog in between being road favorites, when their opponent is road favorites in between being home dogs, at least not enough to make any sort of point off of. However, I think we can safely say it benefits the Chargers. I really like their chances to pull the upset at home, as they did against Dallas and almost did against Houston.
San Diego Chargers 23 Indianapolis Colts 20 Upset Pick +110
Pick against spread: San Diego +2