New Orleans Saints (0-3) at San Diego Chargers (1-2)
Last year, the Chargers went 4-12, thanks in large part to a lot of close losses and a lot of injuries. These things tend to average out in the long run, but so far this year they have not for the Chargers. The Chargers could be 3-0, but blew late leads against both Kansas City and Indianapolis and lost both games by less than a touchdown. On top of that, they’re already without wide receivers Keenan Allen and Steve Johnson and running back Danny Woodhead for the year with injury. Defensive end Joey Bosa and tight end Antonio Gates remain out, while left tackle King Dunlap, cornerback Brandon Flowers, and possibly right tackle Joe Barksdale will join them on the sideline this week. That’s a lot of talent that’s inactive.
The Saints also have a lot of talent that’s inactive. Their best injured player is left tackle Terron Armstead, one of the best in the game. That’s a huge blow to this offense. However, most of the missing talent is on defense, where they aren’t that good to begin with. Safety Kenny Vaccaro returns from a one-game absence this week, but the Saints are still without first round pick defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins and starting cornerbacks Delvin Breaux and PJ Williams. The least talented defense in the league, the Saints are giving a pair of undrafted free agents significant snaps at cornerback.
The Chargers have been much better this season though, even with all of their injuries. While the Saints rank 24th in rate of moving the chains differential so far this season, the Chargers rank 9th. Despite their 4-12 record and all of their injuries, the Chargers still finished 13th in that metric last season. This line is at 4, which suggests the Chargers are significantly better than the Saints (1 in 4 games are decided by 3 points or fewer). I agree with that, but we’re not getting a ton of line value with the Chargers, so I can’t be confident in them. I’m also concerned that the Chargers are 6-11 ATS in their last 17 home games, as they’re known for having poor home crowds, so this is a no confidence pick.
San Diego Chargers 33 New Orleans Saints 27
Pick against the spread: San Diego -4