Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) at Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1)
The Chargers have 8-6, but they haven’t played quite as well as that overall this season, as their eight wins have come by a combined 33 points (4.125 points per win), while their six losses have come by a combined 64 points (10.167 points per loss). As a result, they rank just 21st in point differential, which is more predictive than winning percentage, and 26th in schedule adjusted efficiency (-4.03), which is more predictive than point differential. Injuries have been the primary reason why they have been underwhelming this season though and they have gotten a lot healthier in recent weeks, which has had a noticeable effect on their performance.
Quarterback Justin Herbert has played significantly better since recovering from an early season rib injury that he played through and he’ll have his two talented wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams together for the third straight week this week, something he only had in 2 of his first 12 starts. The Chargers’ offensive line has also been better in recent weeks with center Corey Linsley back healthy, after he missed 3 games total earlier in the season, while their defense will get a big boost this week with stud safety Derwin James back from a 2-game absence. The Chargers are still missing expected top cornerback JC Jackson, stud edge defender Joey Bosa, and talented left tackle Rashawn Slater, which are significant absences, but they’re clearly in much better shape injury wise than they were earlier in the season.
This week, the Chargers play a Colts team whose primary issue this season has been the turnover margin, tied for a league worst -12 turnover margin. That’s not predictive week-to-week though and, somewhat counterintuitively, teams with bad turnover margins tend to cover against teams with good turnover margins, with teams covering at a 54.3% rate against a team that has a turnover margin 15+ points higher than theirs, because turnover margins don’t have nearly as much predictive value week-to-week as most people think.
With the Chargers at +3 in the turnover margin, that trend applies to this game and, in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive than turnover margins, the Colts haven’t been quite as bad as their record would suggest, ranking 25th at -3.96. However, the Colts benched starting quarterback Matt Ryan this week for backup Nick Foles, who will be their third quarterback of the season and who will almost definitely be a downgrade from Ryan, which will hurt their chances of covering this spread.
This line is relatively high, favoring the Chargers on the road by 4.5 points, with 3 out of 10 games being decided by four points or fewer, but the Chargers tend to overperform expectations on the road because they don’t have any homefield advantage in Los Angeles anyway (18-27 ATS at home, 27-17 ATS on the road since moving in 2017) and the Chargers also are at an advantage as a Pacific Time Zone team in a night game against an Eastern Time Zone team, a spot in which teams cover at about a 60% rate historically. We’re not getting nearly enough value with the Chargers for them to be worth betting, but I would pick them for pick ‘em purposes, albeit for one of my lowest confidence picks of the week.
Los Angeles Chargers 25 Indianapolis Colts 20
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -4.5