Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

The Redskins are only 5-7, but they’ve also faced the 2nd toughest strength of schedule in the NFL thus far. Unfortunately for them, their schedule doesn’t get much easier this week. The Chargers are only 6-6, but they rank 10th in point differential at +56 and 7th in first down rate differential at +4.28%. The Redskins have had some success against top level teams this season though, with wins in Los Angeles against the Rams and in Seattle against the Seahawks and a near win in New Orleans against the Saints.

They lost by 24 in Dallas last week, but that was on a Thursday night and the game was closer than the final score. That loss also puts them in a good spot, as road underdogs tend to cover in their 2nd of two road games off of a loss. Teams are 121-78 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 256-274 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.89 points per game, as opposed to 379-523 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game, a difference of about 2 points.

On top of that, the Redskins are also in a much better spot than the Chargers because, while the Chargers have a game that could decide the division next week in Kansas City, the Redskins have one of their easier games of the season next week, at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Redskins are expected to be 6 point favorites in that game, according to the early line, while the Chargers are expected to be 2 point underdogs in Kansas City.

Underdogs are 67-41 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs and underdogs of 6+ are 44-33 ATS since 2008 before being favorites of 6+ the following week. Both of those trends are in play here. With a tough upcoming game, the Chargers could overlook the Redskins a little bit, while the Redskins should be completely focused. The Chargers also draw very few home fans in Los Angeles and have very little homefield advantage as a result, so the Redskins have a very good shot to give them a tough game. They are worth a small bet at +6.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Washington Redskins 20

Pick against the spread: Washington +6

Confidence: Medium

Cleveland Browns at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 13 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (0-11) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)

The Chargers have been underrated for a while, but the public seems to be finally catching on. They started 0-4, but 3 of those 4 losses came by 3 points or fewer, including 2 in which they missed makeable field goals. They’ve also played better on the road than at home this season, going 3-2 with close losses to the Patriots and Jaguars, as opposed to 2-4 at home, but that’s not a huge surprise, considering they have no home fans in Los Angeles. Despite that, they rank 10th in the league in point differential and 5th in the league in first down rate differential. They could easily be 7-4 or 8-3 right now with better luck in close games and an actual homefield advantage.

That being said, I think this line is actually too high at 13.5. The Chargers still likely won’t have much of homefield advantage and I don’t think they’re 12-13 points better than the Browns. The Browns obviously haven’t won all season, but their defense has played better in recent weeks with Jason McCourty and Myles Garrett back healthy, while the offense gets Josh Gordon back this week after getting Corey Coleman back a few weeks ago, much needed additions to a once paper-thin receiving corps. Deshone Kizer is such a bad quarterback that he might screw it all up again, but the Browns have a good chance to keep this one close if they can avoid turning it over too much.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Cleveland Browns 10

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +13.5

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys: 2017 Week 12 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

When I saw the Chargers were 4-point underdogs last week on the early line in Dallas in this Thanksgiving game, I liked them a lot. However, in the past week, the Cowboys were blown out at home by the Eagles, their second straight big loss without suspended feature back Ezekiel Elliott, and the Chargers blew out the Bills, who started overwhelmed 5th round rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman. I can’t complain too much about those outcomes because I picked both the Chargers and the Eagles last week, but, as a result, we’ve lost a ton of line value with the Chargers, who now enter now as 1 point favorites.

The public has completely soured on the Cowboys after back-to-back big blowout losses in nationally televised games, but the Cowboys will likely get talented left tackle Tyron Smith back from injury this week. The common thinking is that the Cowboys’ struggles in the last two weeks are primarily as a result of the loss of Elliott, but, considering how bad Smith’s backups have been, I think Smith was a bigger loss for this offense. Even if he’s not at 100%, his return is huge for this offense. Dak Prescott is a much better quarterback when he isn’t under pressure all game and Alfred Morris has done a decent job as the lead runner in Elliott’s absence.

The Chargers are still the better team even with Smith healthy though, as they rank 6th in first down rate on the season +3.66%, despite an underwhelming 4-6 record. Four of their 6 losses have come by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. Overall, they’re actually pretty impressive, considering their lack of homefield advantage in their new home in Los Angeles. With better luck in close games and an actual home field advantage, they could easily be 6-4 or 7-3 right now. Away from Los Angeles, they are 4-1 ATS this season, with their one non-cover coming in an 8-point loss as 7.5 point underdogs. That’s been a trend for them since their San Diego days, as they are 14-7 ATS on the road since 2015.

The Cowboys also have had no homefield advantage in recent years, but for different reasons. Because they tend to attract fans throughout the country, their advantage at home significantly less and that’s noticeable in the numbers. They are 33-28 on the road since 2010 (35-26 ATS), with a scoring differential of -0.07 per game, as opposed to 31-32 at home (22-41 ATS), with a scoring differential of +1.27 per game. Homefield advantage hasn’t even counted for a full point for them over the past 7 seasons. They’ll also still be without linebacker Sean Lee, who is arguably their most important defensive player. Given all of that, I have the Chargers about 3 points better than the Cowboys and I have this line calculated at about -2 or -2.5. We aren’t getting much line value with the Chargers, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em pool purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Dallas Cowboys 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -1

Confidence: Low

Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 11 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars: 2017 Week 10 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (3-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)

The Chargers are 3-5, but I think they are very underrated and borderline a top-10 team in terms of talent. They rank 7th in first down rate differential at +3.12% and are only 3-5 because they’ve lost 3 games by 3 points or less, including two games in which they missed makeable field goals. That’s pretty impressive considering they basically don’t have a homefield, as the recently relocated Chargers do not draw any home fans in Los Angeles.

With better luck in close games and a real home stadium, this team could easily be 5-3 or 6-2. They are 3-1 ATS on the road, as they are this week in Jacksonville, with their one loss coming by 8 points in New England as 7.5 point underdogs. That’s been the story for years with them, even dating back to their San Diego days. They are 13-7 ATS on the road since 2015 and 12 of their last 26 losses have come by 4 points or less.

The Jaguars are a borderline top-10 team too, as they have arguably the best defense in the league, which allows them to run the ball and hide Blake Bortles. However, I think this line is too high at 4.5, especially with the Chargers getting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman back from injury out of the bye. These two teams are more or less even, so I have this line at 3. The Chargers have a good chance to win outright and, if they lose, it could easily be another close loss. About 30% of games are decided by 4 points or less, even more so when the Chargers are involved, so getting 4.5 points gives us a decent sized cushion. The Chargers are worth a small bet.

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 Los Angeles Chargers 17

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +4.5

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots: 2017 Week 8 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (3-4) at New England Patriots (5-2)

The Chargers are just 3-4, but they’ve had a more impressive season than that suggests. They lost their first 2 games by a combined 5 points, in games in which they missed a combined 3 makeable field goals, and then their 3rd loss came by just 2 points. On the season, they rank 7th in first down rate differential at +3.52% and have a +6 point differential. Making that even more impressive, they’ve done that despite the fact that their home crowds tend to be primarily road fans, meaning they’ve more or less played 7 road games thus far this season. As a result, they are 3-0 ATS in their 3 actual road games. This trend actually dates back to San Diego where they had trouble drawing crowds too. They’re 13-6 ATS since 2015 on the road, including 12-5 ATS as road underdogs.

Going into New England is no easy task, but the Chargers are used to opposing crowds and are capable of playing well despite them. The Patriots are also a little overrated right now. The common narrative is that they’ve fixed their defensive issues after last week’s 23-7 win over the Falcons, but they still allowed the Falcons to move the chains at a 39.29% rate. The Falcons just couldn’t cash in, missing two makeable field goals and failing from 4th and goal from the 1 late in the game. On the season, they rank dead last in first down rate allowed at 40.97%. The Patriots have also lost defensive tackle Malcom Brown and outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower with injuries in the past week, hurting this defense even more.

The Patriots could still figure out their defensive issues before the post-season, given how well-coached they are, but I need to see it before I believe it, especially given who they are missing defensively right now. Given the state of these two rosters, I have the Patriots as just 2.5 points better than the Chargers right now, so we’re getting some line value with the visitors at +7.5. It does concern me a little bit that the Patriots are going into a bye, as home favorites of 7 or more are 61-40 ATS since 1989, but the Chargers are going into a bye too and that record drops to 13-12 ATS when the opponent is also going into a bye. On top of that, I don’t think the Patriots deserve to be favored by this many right now, so the Chargers are worth a small bet at +7.5.

New England Patriots 24 Los Angeles Chargers 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +7.5

Confidence: Medium

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 7 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-2) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-4)

This is the toughest call of the week. Both of these teams enter this game pretty banged up. The Chargers got first round pick wide receiver Mike Williams back from injury last week, but could be without top wide receiver Keenan Allen and above average starting defensive tackle Corey Liuget, who both missed practice late in the week this week. The Chargers were already without starting cornerback Jason Verrett and middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, both big losses on this defense.

Meanwhile, the Broncos’ injury problems have been primarily in the receiving corps. Already missing 3rd round rookie Carlos Henderson for the season and valuable depth receiver Cody Latimer, the Broncos lost 5th round rookie Isaiah McKenzie and starting wideout Emmanuel Sanders last week, leaving only Bennie Fowler and Jordan Taylor behind Demaryius Thomas on the depth chart and Thomas is dealing with his own injury issues. He’s still expected to play, but might not be 100% after being knocked out on a couple occasions with leg injuries in last week’s loss to the Giants.

I have the Broncos about 1.5 points better than the Chargers, but the Chargers have next to no homefield advantage since they attract primarily road fans, so they shouldn’t be getting more than a point for homefield advantage, if anything. I expect most of the fans at this game to be supporting the Broncos. This line is even, which is right around where I’d calculate it, so this game is basically a coin flip. I’m taking the Chargers only because Allen and Liuget have the potential to play, while the Broncos’ injured receivers do not.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Denver Broncos 19

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers PK

Confidence: None