San Diego Chargers (8-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-7)
The public is all over the Chargers here. It’s understandable. The 49ers have lost 3 straight games, haven’t covered since week 11 in New York against the Giants and haven’t covered at home since week 13 of last season. They’ve been eliminated from the playoffs and Jim Harbaugh is basically a goner. However, these players will all still play hard for themselves and the talent difference between these two teams isn’t really that much.
I love fading the public whenever it makes sense, especially when the public is on the underdog. Whenever the public and the odds makers have different ideas about which team is going to win and which team should be favored, it usually doesn’t end well for the public. If the Chargers are really as likely to win as the public thinks, why do the people who set lines for a living still have San Francisco favored?
Fading the public does make sense this week. As I mentioned, the talent difference between these two teams isn’t really that much. The Chargers move the chains at a 73.63% rate, as opposed to 73.30% for their opponents, a differential of 0.33% that ranks 14th in the NFL. Meanwhile, the 49ers rank 18th, moving the chains at a 70.59% rate as opposed to 71.36% for their opponents, a differential of -0.77%. The 49ers lost Ray McDonald, a valuable defensive lineman, this week, releasing him after it came out that he was being investigated for violence against a woman for the 2nd time this year. They’ll also be without talented linebacker Chris Borland.
However, the Chargers are going to be without both Keenan Allen and Ryan Mathews this week, while Philip Rivers reportedly is playing through a serious injury, which would explain why he’s struggled mightily over the past 2 weeks. The Chargers generally are very good in December, but they didn’t cover at home against either Denver or New England in the last 2 weeks and neither game was really that close. As long as Rivers is playing through a significant injury, missing his top two offensive weapons, I don’t think the Chargers’ past December success is relevant to this game.
The Chargers are also in a tough spot with another very important game in Kansas City on deck next week, so it’s possible they somewhat overlook a struggling non-conference opponent. Teams are 51-83 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional road underdogs before being divisional road underdogs. Meanwhile, the 49ers host the broken down Cardinals next week. If this line does move to San Diego being favored before game time, that would put them in a bad spot because teams are 62-38 ATS since 2012 as underdogs before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. It’s hard to be confident in the 49ers, but they should be the right side.
San Francisco 49ers 24 San Diego Chargers 20
Pick against the spread: San Francisco -1