Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 17 NFL Pick

Kansas City Chiefs (11-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-10)

The Chiefs are coming off of easily their best performance of the season, blowing out the Denver Broncos 33-10 in a game they won the first down battle 23 to 14 and the first down rate differential battle by a season high 10.17%. However, that type of performance has been far from the norm for this team. Even after that win, they still have allowed as many offensive touchdowns as they’ve scored and they have a -37 first down differential, 5th worst in the NFL. In first down rate differential, they enter this game in 25th. Their record is largely the result of 6 wins by 8 points or less (including two overtime victories), a +15 turnover margin, and a +7 return touchdown margin, but it’s tough to rely on takeaways and return touchdowns to win you close games, as there’s no week-to-week correlation in turnover margin and, as a result, there’s no week-to-week correlation in return touchdown margin.

The Chargers have also played a lot of close games, as 9 of their 10 losses have come by 8 points or fewer. They rank 6th in first down rate differential as they have 10 more first downs and 3 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve allowed, but are just 5-10 because of bad luck in close games. This could be another close loss for them and another close win for the Chiefs, but this line is way too high at 5.5 in favor of the visiting Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers almost beat the Chiefs in Kansas City earlier this year and figure to give them another close game this week. There’s also a real chance at a San Diego upset victory here as well.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 San Diego Chargers 23

Pick against the spread: San Diego +5.5

Confidence: Medium

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San Diego Chargers at Cleveland Browns: 2016 Week 16 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (0-14)

Betting on winless teams is usually a good idea, as teams that are 0-8 or worse are 34-22 ATS since 1989. However, no one seems to have told that to the Browns, who have failed to cover in 8 straight games and are now 0-14. The Browns have lost 7 of those 8 games by 13 or more points and their average margin of defeat over those 8 games has been 13.88 points per game. They covered some spreads earlier in the year, but that was before injuries struck their offensive line and while Cody Kessler was starting at quarterback. Kessler wasn’t great or anything, but he was significantly better than both Josh McCown or Robert Griffin. It’s no coincidence that they are 2-2 ATS in the 4 games he’s started and finished and just 1-9 ATS in their other 10 games. RG3, who has looked lost in 2 starts since returning from injury, has been the worst of the bunch, but he’ll get another start this week.

Typically, when a team has lost as many games against the spread in a row as the Browns have, the odds makers boost the spread significantly, but we’re still getting good line value with the Chargers as 4.5 point road favorites in Cleveland. That’s because the Chargers are an underrated team. Despite a 5-9 record, the Chargers have an even point differential, significantly better than Cleveland’s league worst -188. That’s despite the fact that the Chargers are -5 in turnover margin on the season. They have 14 more first downs and 3 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents on the season and rank 5th in first down rate differential, significantly higher than the Browns, who are in dead last in that metric.

The Chargers are in a tough spot with a home game against the Chiefs on deck, a game in which they are expected to be home underdogs. Road favorites tend to struggle before being home favorites, going 52-71 ATS since 2002. The Chargers could overlook the Browns with Kansas City on deck. However, the Browns don’t exactly have it easy next week either with a trip to Pittsburgh on deck, where they will almost definitely be double digit underdogs. Teams predictably struggle before tough games like that, going 41-67 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs. I like the Chargers’ chances to win this game by a good margin.

San Diego Chargers 27 Cleveland Browns 17

Pick against the spread: San Diego -4.5

Confidence: Medium

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Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 15 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-8)

The Raiders are 10-3, but are not nearly as good as their record suggests, as their record is largely the result of a 7-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a league best +15 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, as there’s no week-to-week correlation in turnover margin. Outside of those 15 plays, the Raiders have been a pretty average team this year and they are legitimately a few snaps away from being 7-6 or 6-7. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank just 21st in the league.

This game figures to be a lot tougher for the Raiders than people expect, as not only are the Raiders overrated, but the Chargers are underrated and in a great spot. Despite a 5-8 record, the Chargers have a positive point differential at +3, not far behind the Raiders at +38. That’s despite the fact that the Chargers are -5 in turnover margin on the season. They have 18 more first downs and 2 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents on the season and rank 5th in first down rate differential, significantly higher than the Raiders.

The Chargers will be missing starting running back Melvin Gordon in this game, a big loss considering the Chargers are down to 4th string running back Kenneth Farrow, an undrafted rookie, with backups Danny Woodhead and Darren Oliver already out for the season. However, the Raiders will be without top safety Karl Joseph, who has been one of the Raiders’ best defensive players this season and one of the top defensive rookies in the NFL, so it kind of cancels out.

Gordon’s injury certainly doesn’t warrant a line movement all the way from San Diego -1 to Oakland -3 in one week, especially when the Raiders lost in Kansas City last week. The Chargers also have no upcoming distractions with a trip to Cleveland on deck. They will almost definitely be road favorites in Cleveland and home underdogs are 81-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less (including 4 of the Raiders’ 10 wins), so I’d put money on San Diego at 3, but I also like the Chargers’ chances of winning straight up.

San Diego Chargers 23 Oakland Raiders 20 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: San Diego +3

Confidence: Medium

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San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers: 2016 Week 14 NFL Pick

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

Confidence: Low

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 13 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)

The Buccaneers got an impressive home victory over the Seahawks last week, but teams tend not to cover coming off of a home upset victory, going 60-80 ATS the following week since 2012. Teams tend to be overrated off of a home upset victory, as they happen more often than people realize and are not usually as big of a deal as they seem. In this game, the Buccaneers’ upset victory shifted the line 2 points from 5.5 last week on the early line to 3.5 this week. As a result, we’re getting line value with the hometown Chargers.

Despite having one fewer win than the Buccaneers, the Chargers are a significantly better team, entering this game 6th in first down rate differential, while the Buccaneers enter in 24th. The oddsmakers seem to realize this, making the Chargers 2.5 point favorites in Houston last week against a Texans team that was 6-4 at the time (the Chargers still covered) and originally making them 5.5 point favorites here at home for the Buccaneers, but now they seem to be overrating the Buccaneers as a result of what could easily prove to be a fluky Tampa Bay home victory. I wish this line was all the way down to 3, but I don’t expect that to happen and I have no problem putting money on the Chargers at 3.5. We’re getting good line value with the Chargers either way.

San Diego Chargers 27 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20

Pick against the spread: San Diego -3.5

Confidence: Medium

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San Diego Chargers at Houston Texans: 2016 Week 12 NFL Pick

San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Houston Texans (6-4)

The Chargers are just 4-6, but they’ve been significantly better than their record this season. All 6 of their losses came by 8 points or fewer, so they’ve been competitive in every game. Their +14 point differential is solid and they rank 7th in first down rate differential thanks to a +24 first down differential. They’re also healthier coming out of the bye, getting middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, and safety Jahleel Addae back from injury this week. The Texans, meanwhile, are not nearly as good as their 6-4 record. Their 6 wins have come by a combined 36 points, while their 4 losses have come by a combined 70 points, giving them a point differential of -34 that ranks 26th in the NFL. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank 27th in the league.

Neither of these teams’ records are indicative of their talent level or how they’ve played thus far this season. However, this line seems to take that into account, as the Chargers are 1.5 point road favorites. As a result, we’re not really getting any line value with them. I’m still going to take the Chargers because they’re in a better spot than the Texans (the Chargers host the Buccaneers next week while the Texans go to Green Bay) and because they’ve been a good road team over the past two seasons (9-4 ATS), but there’s not enough here for me to be confident in them.

San Diego Chargers 20 Houston Texans 17

Pick against the spread: San Diego -1.5

Confidence: Low

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Miami Dolphins at San Diego Chargers: 2016 Week 10 NFL Pick

Miami Dolphins (4-4) at San Diego Chargers (4-5)

The Chargers have been one of the most banged up teams in the league in each of the last two seasons. This season, the Chargers have been missing wide receiver Steve Johnson, running back Danny Woodhead, wide receiver Keenan Allen, middle linebacker Manti Te’o, and cornerback Jason Verrett for most, if not all of the season thus far. Joining them this week will be starting middle linebackers Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown and starting wide receiver Travis Benjamin.

The Chargers are going into a bye, which is good news from an injury standpoint, as it gives them time to get their players back, but it’s also bad news because it puts them in a bad spot this week. Home favorites of 1 to 5.5 points are just 30-58 ATS before a regular season bye since 2002, as teams tend to get caught looking forward to their week off in this spot. The Chargers are 4.5 point favorites, so they fall right in the range. That’s also too many points, given the Chargers’ injury situation and the fact that the Dolphins are a quality opponent. The Dolphins are 12th in first down rate differential, just a few spots behind the Chargers, who enter this game in 8th. Even banged up and in a bad spot, the Chargers will probably win this game, but 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer, so the Dolphins are the right pick if we’re getting 4.5 with them. There’s not enough for me to put money on them though.

San Diego Chargers 23 Miami Dolphins 20

Pick against the spread: Miami +4.5

Confidence: Low

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