Miami Dolphins (5-8) at San Diego Chargers (3-10)
The Chargers are just 3-10, one of the worst records in the NFL, but rank 14th in rate of moving the chains differential. How can that be? Well, their record is largely the result of a 3-6 record in games decided by a touchdown (3-7 in games decided by 8 points or fewer), a -7 turnover margin, a -5 return touchdown margin, a -7.5 yards per kickoff return margin, and a -3.1 net punt margin. On the season, they’ve actually outgained their opponents.
None of those things suggests anything deeply wrong with this team, but rather that they have the framework of a decent team and just need to clean some things up. They’ve won the rate of moving the chains battle in 7 of 13 games and could easily be 6-7 or 7-6. This team reminds me a lot of the 2012 Lions, who went 4-12 that season, but then 7-9 the following year and 11-5 two years later, with essentially the same framework of the team. Miami, meanwhile, ranks all the way down at 30th, worse than their 5-8 record.
That doesn’t mean I’m taking the Chargers as 2 point home favorites though. I’ve been picking the Chargers against the spread pretty religiously in recent weeks, but I’ve learned my lesson about taking them at home, where they are 1-6 ATS this season. The Chargers have had basically no homefield advantage this season. They seem to have no fans in San Diego, so their stadium has been overrun with visiting fans pretty much every game this year, meaning they essentially have to play 16 road games this season.
I feel bad for the few Chargers fans who do show up because they’re going to lose their team, but the Chargers have a borderline obligation to move up to Los Angeles at this point. It’s not fair to the team to not have any true home games and it also really hurts their chances of signing key free agents, as nice as San Diego weather is. The Chargers are 4-2 ATS on the road this season and one of those non-covers was a 5 point loss early in the season as 3 point underdogs against the Bengals, who turned out to be one of the best teams in the NFL, but it’s really tough to be confident in them in San Diego.
The Chargers are also in a terrible spot. Not only do they have to play again in 4 days in Oakland (favorites are 47-71 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football), but they will be underdogs in that game, while the Dolphins host the Colts on normal rest, a game in which they’re expected to be favored. Teams are 101-169 ATS since 2008 as favorites before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. The Chargers are better than the Dolphins, so I’d need at least a field goal to even think about putting money on the Dolphins, but they’re my pick here.
Update: I’m flipping on this one. This is probably the Chargers’ last home game in San Diego, so the fans might actually show up. It’s still a no confidence pick though.
San Diego Chargers 23 Miami Dolphins 20
Pick against the spread: San Diego -2.5