Buffalo Bills (5-4) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-6)
When this line opened at Chargers -4.5, I was interested in the Bills. The Bills are obviously coming off of a horrendous home loss to the New Orleans Saints, losing 47-10, but teams tend to bounce back pretty well after blowout losses, going 54-30 ATS since 2002 after losing by 35+ points. It’s counterintuitive, but it makes sense as teams to be overlooked, underrated, and embarrassed following a blowout loss. I typically love betting against significant week-to-week line movements and blowout loss almost always trigger significant line movement.
This line shifted from 3 on the early line last week as a result of the Bills’ blowout loss, a pretty significant shift considering 20% of games are decided by 3-4 points. The Chargers also have next to no homefield advantage in Los Angeles and have to play again in 4 days in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Favorites are just 61-95 ATS since 2008 before Thursday Night Football, as it’s understandably tough to be focused for an inferior opponent with another game right around the corner. The Bills seemed like possibly a smart pick.
However, then the Bills benched Tyrod Taylor mid-week for 5th round rookie Nathan Peterman. That shifted the line by another 1.5 points as the Chargers are now 6 point home favorites, but it should have shifted it a lot more. Taylor was far from the problem with this offense and has played pretty well over the past 3 seasons as the starter, despite underwhelming receiving options. He’s been Pro Football Focus’ 9th, 11th, and 10th ranked quarterback over the past 3 seasons and deserves to go somewhere he can start this off-season.
Peterman, meanwhile, is a completely unknown commodity, but likely fell to the 5th round in April for legitimate reason. The history of quarterbacks drafted in the 5th round or later who go on to have success in the NFL is very limited and Peterman seems to lack the requisite arm strength to play quarterback in the NFL. Benching Taylor should have triggered a line movement of at least 4 points. I have this line calculated at -9 in favor of the Chargers with Peterman at quarterback for the Bills.
That might seem high, but even with Taylor under center, the Bills ranked 31st in first down rate differential. They are 5-4, but they have a -12 point differential, despite leading the league with a +11 turnover margin. Turnover margins are very inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis, so the Bills they won’t be able to rely on winning the turnover battle every week. After starting the season +14, they are -3 in the past two games, which have been a double digit loss to the Jets and a blowout loss to the Saints. They rank 29th in both first down rate and first down rate allowed. Their offense couldn’t move the ball despite solid quarterback play and their defense can’t get off the field if they don’t get a takeaway. Now with Peterman under center, this is one of the worst teams in the league. They rank 26th in my roster rankings.
The Chargers, meanwhile, rank 9th in my roster rankings and they rank 9th in first down rate differential as well, despite their 3-6 record. Four of their 6 losses have come by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. That’s pretty impressive considering their lack of homefield advantage. With an actual homefield advantage and better luck in close games, they could easily be 6-3 right now. With that in mind, I’m taking the Chargers here, but I can’t recommend betting any money on them because they aren’t a good home team and they’re in a terrible spot, against a team that just got blown out with another game in 4 days. They should be the right pick for pick ‘em purposes though, given the talent disparity between these two teams.
Los Angeles Chargers 24 Buffalo Bills 16
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -6