Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-2)
The Chargers haven’t won a game yet, but enter this game 5th in first down rate differential at +7.26%, trailing only four 2-0 teams (Carolina, Denver, Oakland, Baltimore). The Chargers have moved the ball well, but have failed to close out games because of missed field goals. In the opener, they had a field goal blocked at the end of the game that would have sent it to overtime and last week they lost by 2 to the Dolphins in a game in which they missed a pair of field goals, either of which would have won them the game. Because of this, I think the Chargers are an underrated team, as they have played significantly better than their record would suggest.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, are a little bit overrated. They’re a top-10 team, but I’m not sure if they’re an elite, top level team yet. They obviously looked like it in New England week 1, but they lost Eric Berry for the season in that game, a massive loss, and that game could easily be their best of the season when all is said and done. Last week, they won by a touchdown at home against a good Philadelphia team, but that game could have been a lot different if the Eagles hadn’t muffed a punt and missed a 30-yard field goal. The Eagles managed 27 first downs in that game to Kansas City’s 16 and led late in the 3rd quarter before a number of late screw ups.
These two teams are more evenly matched than their records suggest. In fact, I have them about even in my roster rankings, while the Chargers rank 4 spots better than the Chiefs in first down rate differential. Cornerback Jason Verrett remains out for the Chargers, which is a big loss, but the Chiefs lost talented center Mitch Morse in their victory over the Eagles, which will hurt their offensive line. Given that, we’re getting good line value with the Chargers as 3.5 point home underdogs.
The one reason this isn’t a bigger bet is because the Chargers have next to no homefield advantage in their new stadium. It will help the Chargers to not have to travel and to wake up in their own beds on gameday, but they’re not going to get any help from the crowd. I think we’re getting enough line value that they’re worth a bet anyway though. About a quarter of games are decided by a field goal or less, so, even if the Chargers don’t win this outright, I still like their chances of covering the spread. They have 6 losses by a field goal or less over the past 2 seasons, most in the NFL over that time period.
Los Angeles Chargers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 23 Upset Pick +150
Pick against spread: LA Chargers +3.5