San Diego Chargers (0-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (0-0)
The Chiefs are favored here by 6.5 points at home over the Chargers. If you took these two teams’ records from last season, that makes sense, as the Chargers won just 4 games and the Chiefs won 11. However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. While the Chargers only won 4 games, they were competitive in most of their games, only losing by more than 8 points three times, including just 1 loss by more than 8 points on the road. Close losses weren’t the end of their bad luck last season, as they had the 2nd worst special teams performance in the league in terms of DVOA and had a -5 differential in return touchdowns. Both of those things tend to be pretty random and hard to predict on a year-to-year basis and even average performance in both of those metrics helps this team win more close games. They actually outgained opponents on the season by 158 yards and finished 13th in rate of moving the chains differential, just 5 spots behind the Chiefs.
That’s despite the fact that they had among the most injuries in the league last season, finishing with the 6th most adjusted games lost to injury in the league. They were especially banged up down the stretch and still managed to keep it close with the Chiefs week 14, covering as huge road underdogs in a 7 point loss. The Chargers are much healthier this season, with the likes of Keenan Allen, Orlando Franklin, and King Dunlap returning after injury plagued 2015 seasons. They also added Matt Slauson and Casey Hayward, two very underrated signings, this off-season, though they lost long-time safety Eric Weddle and will be without #3 overall pick Joey Bosa in this one, as he works back into shape after a stupid off-season holdout.
Instead, the Chiefs are the ones coming into the season banged up, as Jamaal Charles and Justin Houston, two of their best players, will miss the start of the season with knee injuries. Both were out for last year’s close call with the Chargers week 14, but the Chiefs are also now without top cornerback Sean Smith, who left as a free agent this off-season. This line shouldn’t be any higher than 3 (suggesting these two teams are about even) and the Chargers actually played better on the road last season than at home, where they have very few fans, so I like the Chargers’ chances of taking this one straight up. At the very least, the game should be even closer than the 7 point game played between these two teams in Kansas City week 14 last season and the Chargers’ chances of winning straight up are better than the +230 money line suggests.
San Diego Chargers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +230
Pick against the spread: San Diego +6.5
Confidence: Pick of the Week