Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 12 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (2-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (7-3)

The Chargers lost at home to the Broncos last week, but they won the first down rate battle (-2.35%) and could have won the game if they made all their extra points. The Broncos are also an underrated team that has played the Texans, Chiefs (twice), and Rams close, so that loss isn’t as bad as it looks. Even with that loss, the Chargers are still 7-3 and rank 7th in point differential at +53 and 4th in first down rate differential at +4.86%. The Chargers should also be better this week with stud defensive end Joey Bosa going into his 2nd game and likely to see close to his full snaps.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, are one of the worst teams in the league, ranking 31st in first down rate differential (-6.78%) and 30th in point differential (-103) and they are going in the wrong direction injury wise, with left tackle DJ Humphries joining right guard Justin Pugh on the sidelines this week, meaning the Cardinals will be without their best two offensive linemen from an offensive line that was pretty underwhelming to begin with.

Normally when one of the better teams in the league hosts one of the worst teams in the league the line should be at least two touchdowns and this line is a little short of that at -13, but I wouldn’t bet on the Chargers for a couple reasons. For one, they don’t have a typical homefield advantage, as they have serious trouble attracting fans in Los Angeles, even as well as they’ve played this season. The Chargers also aren’t in a great spot this week with a trip to Pittsburgh on deck. Double digit favorites are just 61-80 ATS before being underdogs, which the Steelers will be this week. With a weak opponent coming to town, they might not be completely focused with that game on deck.

The Cardinals aren’t in a good spot either with another tough game in Green Bay on deck, a game in which they are expected to be double digit underdogs again. Double digit underdogs are just 26-51 ATS since 2002 before being double digit underdogs again, as it’s very tough for a significantly inferior team to hang with a superior team when they have another tough game on deck. There’s not enough here to bet the Chargers, but they should be the right pick. I’ll probably downgrade this to a no confidence pick if running back Melvin Gordon is ruled out for the Chargers, but the fact that he was able to get some practice in on Friday suggests he at least has a good shot to play, even if he’s officially being called a gametime decision after tweaking his knee in practice this week.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Arizona Cardinals 16

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -13

Confidence: Low

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 11 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (3-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (7-2)

I’ve thought the Broncos are underrated for most of the season, as they are about even in point differential (-8), despite their 3-6 record, with 4 of their losses coming by a combined 16 points to the Texans, Rams, and Chiefs (twice), who are all division leaders. In first down rate differential, they are even better, ranking 10th at +2.83%. However, the injuries have started to pile up for them, especially on the offensive line. Already missing talented right guard Ron Leary for the season, the Broncos lost center Matt Paradis, their best offensive lineman, for the year in their final game before the bye and then lost fill-in right guard Max Garcia with a torn ACL during practice this week.

The Chargers, meanwhile, might be getting stud edge rusher Joey Bosa back for the first time this year, after he returned to practice this week. He’s not a guarantee to play and likely wouldn’t be 100% in his first game back, but he’d be a big boost to a defense that was one of the best in the league with him healthy in 2017. The Chargers finished the 2017 season 4th in first down rate allowed at 31.09%, but they rank just 13th at 35.84% this season. Bosa’s absence isn’t the only difference between last year and this year for this Chargers’ defense, but, assuming he returns to form, he’ll be a huge re-addition for this team down the stretch.

The Chargers are also in a much better spot. While the Broncos have to follow this game up with a big home game against the Steelers, the Chargers get yet another easy game next week with the Arizona Cardinals coming to town. The Broncos obviously won’t look past their division rival Chargers, but it’s very tough for inferior teams to compete when they have another tough game on deck, as underdogs of 6+ are 47-71 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs of 6+ again. Teams are also 31-60 ATS in general since 2014 before being home underdogs of 6+, as big upcoming home games tend to be a bit of a distraction.

On the other side, favorites of 6+ are 88-53 ATS since 2014 before being favored by 6+ again, including a ridiculous 28-7 ATS if their opponent will be 6+ point underdogs again the following week. Big home favorites tend to take care of business with easy games on deck, especially against an opponent that has to play another tough game the following week. That situation definitely applies to this game.

It worries me a little that there will be more Broncos fans than Chargers fans at this game, as the Chargers still can’t draw fans in Los Angeles even at 7-2, but, even with the Chargers’ lack of homefield advantage taken into account, I still have this line calculated at Chargers -8 over a banged up Denver team, so we’re still getting some line value with the Chargers, who also happen to be in the better spot. They are worth a bet and I will probably make this a bigger play if it’s announced Bosa is playing and the line doesn’t move to compensate.

Sunday Update: Bosa is expected to play, but will likely be limited to about 10-15 snaps, so I’m leaving this pick as is.

Los Angeles Chargers 27 Denver Broncos 17

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -7

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders: 2018 Week 10 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) at Oakland Raiders (1-7)

This line shifted from Chargers -7.5 on the early line last week up to Chargers -10 this week. Typically I like going against significant week-to-week line movements like that, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play, but this one is justified. The Chargers one of the better teams in the league, ranking 4th in first down rate differential at +4.70% and 8th in point differential at +40, while the Raiders are quite the opposite. Outside of the Bills, they may be the worst team in the entire league. The Chargers also typically play well on the road, going 32-20-3 ATS since 2012 away from home, as they rarely have much of a homefield advantage anyway and are used to playing in front of hostile crowds.

The Chargers are also in a great spot this week, with only another relatively easy divisional game on deck, at home against the Broncos, a game in which they are favored by 7 on the early line. Favorites of 6+ tend to take care of business with another easy game on deck, going 86-52 ATS since 2014 before being favorites of 6+ again. The Raiders will probably bring their best effort for this game, with a long week to prepare against a hated divisional rival, but the Chargers could still easily win this game by double digits. This is too many points for the Chargers to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Oakland Raiders 19

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -10

Confidence: None

Los Angeles Chargers at Seattle Seahawks: 2018 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (5-2) at Seattle Seahawks (4-3)

I was hoping the Chargers would get Joey Bosa back from injury following their week 8 bye because I think with him healthy they are a legitimate contender, but would likely not be considered one by the general public, giving us some deflated lines with them. Bosa is expected to still need a few more weeks though and, at the very least, is out for this game in Seattle. Despite that, I still like the Chargers a lot this week as 1.5 point road favorites. Even without Bosa, the Chargers rank 5th in first down rate differential at +4.48%. Their defense has been underwhelming, ranking 20th in first down rate allowed at 37.33%, but their offense has been strong with Philip Rivers playing as well as he ever has and plenty of weapons around him, picking up first downs or touchdowns on 41.81% of offensive snaps.

Making that even more impressive is the fact that they basically have no homefield advantage, as their home games are usually overtaken by visiting fans. Going into Seattle is no easy task, but the Chargers are used to playing well in hostile environments and are 31-20-3 ATS away from home since 2012. This is also far from the same Seattle team we are used to, as a result of all their defensive losses. They are 4-3 and have won 4 of 5, with their one loss in that span coming by 2 points to the Rams, but they’ve also benefited from a +10 turnover margin, which they are not necessarily going to be able to rely on going forward, given how inconsistent turnovers are week-to-week. In first down rate, they rank just 24th at -3.15%, with both their offense and defense ranking below average.

This is also a much better spot for the Chargers than the Seahawks, as the Chargers follow this game with a trip to Oakland to play the hapless Raiders, while the Seahawks have to go to Los Angeles and take on the currently undefeated Rams. Underdogs are 84-51 ATS before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, as teams tend to be much more focused with an easier game on deck rather than a harder one that could potentially be a distraction. I know we’re only getting a point and a half with the Chargers, but the logic stands, as that game in Los Angeles has likely been circled on the calendar by the Seahawks for months. Last time they played the Rams, they almost lost in Arizona the week prior. We’re also getting good line value with the Chargers, who I have calculated as 3-point road favorites in this game, so the Chargers are an obvious choice in this one.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Seattle Seahawks 20 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +1.5

Confidence: High

Tennessee Titans vs. Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 7 NFL Pick

Tennessee Titans (3-3) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (4-2) in London

Typically, I love going against significant week-to-week line movement, as it tends to be an overreaction to a single week of play. This line moved the most of any of the lines this week, going from Chargers -3 to Chargers -6.5 in this neutral site game in London. It’s not hard to figure out why, as the Chargers won 38-14 in Cleveland last week, while the Titans were shutout at home by the Ravens in a 21-0 loss.

I still think it’s a little bit of an overreaction though. The Chargers could wind up being a contender in the AFC, but their defense isn’t the same without Joey Bosa, who continues to be out. The Titans, meanwhile, have not played well in the past couple of weeks, but they still have a strong defense and won games against the Eagles and Jaguars earlier this season, so I have a hard time figuring out how the Chargers are 6.5 points better than them as currently constructed. I have this line calculated at -3.5, so we’re getting significant line value with the underdog.

There are two reasons this isn’t a bigger play though. For one, the Chargers always tend to play well away from home, which makes sense, as they have next to no homefield advantage. They are 31-19-3 ATS on the road since 2012, including 6-3-2 ATS since moving to Los Angeles last season. The second reason is that big favorites tend to cover in neutral site games, as they tend to be better prepared and have the crowd on their side. Favorites of 4+ are 13-1 ATS all-time in neutral site games. There could easily be more Chargers fans at this game than a typical game in Los Angeles, though you can definitely argue the Chargers don’t deserve to be favorites of 4+. It’s not a big bet on Tennessee, but we’re getting too much line value to pass on here.

Los Angeles Chargers 24 Tennessee Titans 20

Pick against the spread: Tennessee +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Los Angeles Chargers at Cleveland Browns: 2018 Week 6 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (3-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-2-1)

The Browns have been near the top of my underrated list all season and I’ve picked them against the spread every week so far this season, including money bets on them against the Steelers, Jets, and Ravens. The Browns have covered or pushed in all 5 games, with their only non-cover coming in a push as 3-point underdogs in Oakland in a game they led by 8 with the ball under 2 minutes left. In fact, if not for a couple bad calls in that game and some missed kicks week 1 and week 2, the Browns could easily be 5-0 right now.

Of course, they also haven’t won a game by more than 4 points, so they could also easily be 1-4 right now, but my point is that the Browns are a competitive football team this season. They’ve drastically upgraded their quarterback situation, which has allowed a solid all around roster to shine more, after Deshone Kizer’s turnover proneness made it near impossible for them to win games in 2017.

Unfortunately, the public seems to be catching on a little bit, as the Browns are 1-point favorites this week at home against the Chargers. Last week, the Browns were field goal home underdogs against the Ravens. The Ravens and Chargers are about even in my rankings, with the Ravens only a couple spots ahead, so we’re not getting the same line value with the Browns this week. In fact, I actually have this line calculated at even, so, if anything we’re getting a tiny bit of line value with the Chargers.

The Chargers have no homefield advantage in Los Angeles, so I always like to bet on them away from home (30-19-3 ATS on the road since 2012, including 5-3-2 ATS since moving to Los Angeles last season), and the Browns could be a little tired this weekend after playing a ridiculous 3rd overtime game in 5 weeks last week. The Chargers aren’t exactly in a great spot either though, with a trip to London on deck (teams are 16-24 ATS all-time before a trip to London). In a game that’s a complete toss up, I’m taking the point for a no confidence pick. Maybe it’ll be another tie. Both teams have suspect kicking units.

Los Angeles Chargers 20 Cleveland Browns 20

Pick against the spread: LA Chargers +1

Confidence: None

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 5 NFL Pick

Oakland Raiders (1-3) at Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)

The Chargers are 2-2, but they’ve been a pretty underwhelming team. Their two wins have come against the Bills and 49ers, two of the worst teams in the league, and they won by just 2 points against the 49ers. In their other two games, they’ve lost by double digits to the Chiefs and Rams. Their offense has been great, ranking 5th in first down rate at 41.94%, but their defense has not nearly been the same without the injured Joey Bosa, ranking 28th in first down rate allowed at 41.87%.

The Chargers also don’t have much homefield advantage, as they barely have any fans in Los Angeles. With the Raiders, a former Los Angeles team, in town this week, I expect the crowd to be primarily Raiders fans. The Raiders are not a good team either and they’re in a tough spot with a trip to London on deck. Teams are 15-23 ATS all-time before a trip to London. They should be able to keep it within the 5, but I can’t take them with any confidence.

Los Angeles Chargers 31 Oakland Raiders 27

Pick against the spread: Oakland +5

Confidence: None