Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 17 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (6-9) at Los Angeles Chargers (8-7)

I’ve bet the Chargers frequently this season, as they’ve been on my underrated list all season. They are just 8-7, but they have a point differential of +63 that ranks 10th in the NFL and they have 43 more first downs and 8 more offensive touchdowns than they’ve allowed, giving them a first down rate differential of +5.09%, 5th best in the NFL. However, I’ve always been hesitant to bet them at home (where they are 3-4 ATS this season, as opposed to 6-2 ATS on the road), given that they’ve had a lot of trouble attracting home fans in their first season in Los Angeles. This week is no exception, especially since they are hosting the Raiders, who still have a ton of fans in Los Angeles from when they used to play there in the 80s and 90s.

With that in mind, I really like the Raiders to cover in this one and not just because the crowd will be on their side. The Raiders are also an underrated team that has been better than their 6-9 record, as they rank 13th in first down rate differential at +0.78%, despite Derek Carr missing time with injury early in the season. That’s actually a better first down rate differential than they had last season, when they finished 19th at -0.49%, despite finishing with a 12-4 record.

The big difference between 2016 and 2017 for the Raiders is turnover margin, as they finished tied for first in turnover margin at +16 last season, but rank 4th worst in the league this season at -12. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis and year-to-year basis, so I don’t hold that against them too much (case in point, the 2016 and 2017 Raiders). Just like they weren’t as good as their record suggested last season, they aren’t as bad as their record suggests this season. We’re getting good value with them as 7.5 point underdogs in Los Angeles against the Chargers, especially when you take into account the Chargers’ lack of homefield advantage.

The Raiders are also in a couple of great spots. For one, this is a revenge game for them, as the Chargers narrowly defeated them in Oakland earlier this season when the Raiders missed a 4th quarter extra point that ended up being the margin of victory (17-16). Road underdogs are 68-39 ATS since 2002 in regular season divisional revenge games against a team that previously defeated them earlier in the season as road underdogs, as the Chargers were in Oakland.

On top of that, road underdogs are 122-81 ATS since 2008 in their second of two road games after a road loss and the Raiders are coming off of a road loss in Philadelphia. That trend results from the fact that teams typically do better in their second of two road games than they do in an average road game, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 262-283 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.96 points per game. On average, road teams get outscored by about 2.60 points per game over that same time period, a difference of about 2 points.

The Raiders are dealing with a major injury with left tackle Donald Penn out for the season, but no one is completely healthy at this point in the season and, even with Penn out, they are relatively healthy. The Chargers have their own injury issues, as they were without left tackle Russell Okung, middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, tight end Hunter Henry, and defensive tackle Corey Liuget in an underwhelming performance against the lowly Jets last week.

Okung, Liuget, and Perryman have a chance to return for this game, but none of them practiced in full during the week, so all three are still major question marks, as is running back Melvin Gordon, who left last week with an ankle injury and only got in limited practices on Thursday and Friday this week. Even if all 4 somehow play, they’re unlikely to be 100% and Henry, a valuable pass catcher and run blocker, remains out. The Raiders are my Pick of the Week.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Oakland Raiders 20

Pick against the spread: Oakland +7.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets: 2017 Week 16 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (7-7) at New York Jets (5-9)

The Chargers lost last week 30-13 in Kansas City, but the game was closer than the final score suggested. The Chargers actually led 13-10 in the 3rd quarter before turning the ball over on 4 straight possessions. Turnover margins tend to be unpredictable on a week-to-week basis though (teams that have a -4 turnover margin, on average, have a turnover margin of +0.0 the following week), so I don’t expect the Chargers’ turnover problems to continue into this week. They are still +7 in turnover margin on the season anyway and they are facing a Jets team that is starting backup quarterback Bryce Petty, who has thrown at least one interception in each of his first 5 career starts.

This line dropped from 10 on the early line last week to 6.5 this week, crossing two key numbers (7 and 10), which is a huge overreaction to the Chargers’ loss in Kansas City. I am still very high on the Chargers, who still have a +56 point differential on the season, despite the 17-point loss last week. If you exclude their 2 games against the Chiefs, who seem to have their number and who won the turnover battle by 7 in their 2 games, that point differential is +87. They are just 7-7, but their other 5 losses have come by a combined 18 points, with three of them coming against the Eagles, Patriots, and Jaguars, who are among the best teams in the NFL.

In first down rate differential, they are even better, as they rank 4th in the NFL at +4.80%, despite the middling record. Making that even more impressive is the fact that they have next to no homefield advantage in Los Angeles. With a reasonable homefield advantage and better luck in close games, they could easily be 9-5 and in the driver’s seat in the AFC West, despite the two losses to the Chiefs. Outside of Los Angeles, the Chargers have been a great team against the spread this season, going 5-2 ATS, with one of their non-covers coming in an 8-point loss in New England as 7.5-point underdogs. That actually dates back a few years, as the Chargers had next to no homefield advantage in their final years in San Diego. Since 2015, they are 15-8 ATS on the road.

The Jets have had success at home this season, going 6-1 ATS, with the one non-cover coming in a 8-point loss as 6-point underdogs against the Panthers, a game in which the Jets led until the Panthers had two return touchdowns in the fourth quarter. This is where I think their home success runs out. Not only are the Chargers a great road team, but this isn’t the same team without quarterback Josh McCown, who is out for the season with a broken hand. McCown was having one of the best seasons of his career prior to going down and was the main reason this team was surprisingly winning some games, despite having one of the weakest rosters in the NFL.

Petty, meanwhile, is arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Outside of the Browns and maybe the Colts, the Jets are the worst team in the league right now with Petty under center. I still have this line at -10, so I’ll happily take the Chargers at -6.5, especially since the Jets are in a very tough spot with a game in New England on deck. Underdogs of 6+ are 39-60 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again, as it’s very tough for inferior teams to compete against superior teams when they have a tough upcoming game. On top of that, teams are just 32-52 ATS since 2014 before being double digit underdogs. If the Jets get down big early, they could quit in this meaningless game with a bigger game on deck. This is my Pick of the Week.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 New York Jets 10

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -6.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs: 2017 Week 15 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (7-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-6)

When these two teams met in week 3, the Chiefs won 24-10 in Los Angeles, but the game was closer than the final score suggested. It was a 17-10 game until Kareem Hunt busted a largely meaningless 69-yard touchdown run to push the score to 24-10, when a simple first down would have allowed them to run out the clock. That’s despite the fact that the Chiefs dominated the turnover margin in that game with a +3 margin. In terms of first downs, the Chargers finished with a 24-16 advantage. Turnover margins tend to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis anyway, so I wouldn’t expect the Chiefs to win the turnover battle by 3 again, especially since the Chiefs are just +4 in turnover margin since that week 3 game, while the Chargers are +13.

A lot has changed since that matchup, as the Chiefs were 3-0 following their victory, while the Chargers fell to 0-3. Now both teams are 7-6 and competing for the AFC West title. Despite their equal records, I have the Chargers ranked significantly higher. The Chargers’ 6 losses have come by a combined 32 points, while their 7 wins have come by a combined 105 points, giving them a point differential of +73 that ranks 7th in the NFL. In first down rate differential, they are even better, ranking 2nd only behind the Eagles at +5.15%.

Making all of that even more impressive is the fact that the Chargers are doing this without a real homefield advantage in Los Angeles. For example, in their home loss to the Chiefs, the crowd was primarily Kansas City fans. Given that, it’s no surprise that they have a strong against the spread record on the road this season, going 5-1 ATS, with their one non-cover coming in an 8-point loss as 7.5 point underdogs in New England. If they had better luck in close games (1-4 in games decided by a field goal or less) and an actual homefield advantage, they could easily be 9-4 or 10-3 right now. They are much better than their record and legitimate contenders in a wide open league.

The Chiefs are a solid team, but they rank 11th in point differential and 21st in first down rate differential, both significantly worse than the Chargers. They also have struggled for most of the past couple months. They won last week at home against the Raiders, but they are still just 2-6 with losses to the Bills, Giants, and Jets since their 5-0 start, while the Chargers are 7-2 since their 0-4 start, with their two losses coming only against the Jaguars and Patriots, both strong teams in the AFC. Given how good the Chargers have been away from home, I have them favored by 4 points here in Kansas City, so we’re getting significant line value with the Chargers on an even line. They are the smart pick in this key divisional matchup.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Kansas City Chiefs 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers PK

Confidence: High

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