San Diego Chargers (5-7) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)
Five of the Panthers’ first seven losses came by 3 points or less, but their 8th loss of the season last week came in a 40-7 blowout in Seattle. Because of injuries, the Panthers are not the same team they were earlier this year. They’re down to their 3rd string center and 3rd string left tackle and are also missing top defensive player Luke Kuechly with injury. The Panthers fell to 23rd in first down rate differential with last week’s blowout loss and I think it would be hard to argue they’re not a bottom-10 team right now.
The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 6th in first down rate differential, despite their 5-7 record. All 7 of their losses have come by 8 points or fewer and they have a +15 point differential despite only having 5 wins. They also have a+19 first down differential, 7th best in the NFL. There’s not enough for me to bet any money on the Chargers with even odds, but they should be the pick because they are an underrated team and the Panthers are falling apart.
San Diego Chargers 23 Carolina Panthers 20
Pick against the spread: San Diego PK