Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) at San Diego Chargers (0-1)
Before the season started, the Chargers were one of the teams I expected to have a significant jump in wins this season, after winning just 4 in 2015. That theory was based on the assumptions that the Chargers would have better luck both in winning close games and avoiding injury, two things that tend to be pretty unpredictable from season to season. Sure enough, the Chargers opened the season by blowing a 21 point lead in Kansas City and losing by 6 in overtime, after losing star wide receiver Keenan Allen for the season with a torn ACL mid-game.
The Chargers’ luck in close games still figures to improve going forward (they’re 3-10 in games decided by 8 points or fewer over the past 2 seasons), but Allen is a massive loss for this team. The Chargers moved the chains at a 76.49% rate when Allen was healthy last season, as opposed to 67.23% when he was out of the lineup. Injuries remain a problem for them, as Allen joins 2016 #3 overall pick Joey Bosa and #3 wide receiver Steve Johnson on the sideline. Bosa remains out with a hamstring issue and has yet to practice, following a long holdout, while Johnson is out for the year with a knee injury. Tyrell Williams, a 2015 undrafted free agent with 4 career catches, will have to play a big role in the passing game now, as the #2 receiver opposite free agent acquisition Travis Benjamin.
The Jaguars are missing a pair of starters, cornerback Prince Amukamara and running back Chris Ivory, but the Chargers are still missing more players and more important players. I had the Chargers as better than the Jaguars coming into the season, but these two teams are about even now. On top of that, the Chargers near win in Kansas City could make it tough for them to give their best effort this week, as teams understandably are flat off of close road overtime losses, as long as they aren’t road underdogs the following week. Road underdogs tend to do well off of a road loss, so that cancels out. The Chargers are home favorites here though and teams that are not road underdogs are just 30-60 ATS off of a road overtime loss since 2002.
The Chargers also seem to have next to no homefield advantage, going 5-11 ATS at home since 2014, as opposed to 6-11 ATS on the road. That’s probably a big part of the reason why they’re considering moving up the road to Los Angeles in the near future, though it’s unclear if doing so would actually improve their home crowds. There’s not quite enough here for me to put money on Jacksonville, but I like getting the full field goal with them. If the line were to move to 3.5 by game time, I’d consider putting money on them because I think there’s a good chance this is a field goal game (1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal).
San Diego Chargers 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 23
Pick against the spread: Jacksonville +3