Consensus line: Chargers -7.5, total 43.5
Current betting percentage: 72% on the Chargers and 52% on the OVER

Individual Team Trends:

  • Chiefs are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
  • Chiefs are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 vs. AFC opponents.
  • Chargers are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game.
  • Chargers are 4-9-1 ATS in their last 14 games following a S.U. loss.
  • Under is 10-1 in Chiefs last 11 vs. AFC West opponents.
  • Under is 13-5 in Chiefs last 18 games overall.
  • Under is 12-3-1 in Chargers last 16 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
  • Over is 23-9 in Chargers last 32 games after allowing less than 150 yards passing in their previous game.

Head-to-Head Trends:

  • Under is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.
  • Under is 6-2 in the last 8 meetings in San Diego.

Just when you thought that the Thursday Night Football game couldn’t possibly get any worse, the schedule makers treat us to a good old fashioned barn-burner between the Chargers and the Chiefs. I thought the Vikings and Buccaneers last week was bad, but now they’re just scraping the bottom of the barrel. Don’t worry, though, because Jaguars and Colts is on deck next week, and that should generate a ton of public interest (#sarcasm).

I hate this game from a betting perspective. I can’t envision putting my money on either of these sides with any confidence, and while I have a lean on the total, I’m really not comfortable with that pick either.

I’ll start things off with the Chargers because they seem to be the more inept of the two teams. Philip Rivers is a Grade A loser. I don’t have all of the reasons for his fall from grace in the past couple of seasons, but it’s clear that he’s making some terrible decisions. It also looks like he’s lost a bit of his arm strength and is still set on making throws that he was capable of making a couple of years ago. Football Outsiders ranks Rivers’ total value as a quarterback behind the likes of Matt Hasselbeck, Michael Vick, Sam Bradford, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Needless to say, that’s not good.

The Chargers average just 217.4 yards per game through the air, which is only five yards more than the Chiefs have averaged with Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn at quarterback. To make matters worse, the Chargers’ offensive line has had trouble holding up this season, allowing a total of 19 sacks in seven games, but if there was ever a game for Rivers to get back on track, it would be here against the lousy Chiefs.

Rivers torched Kansas City in Week 4, completing 78 percent of his passes for two touchdowns and only one interception. However, he hasn’t been all that successful against the Chiefs in the past. over the last three seasons, Rivers has turned the ball over eight times against Kansas City, while only throwing for six touchdowns.

It’s not fair to judge Rivers entirely on those performances though because the Chiefs had a formidable cornerback duo in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. Carr is now in Dallas and while Flowers is still the team’s number one cornerback, and Stanford Routt and Javier Arenas have been extremely underwhelming in coverage this season. Add in the fact that Eric Berry has severely regressed at safety, and you can see why the Chiefs give up an average of 8.7 yards per play through the air, second worst in the league. Overall, Kansas City’s pass defense gives up only 222.3 passing yards per game, but that number is tremendously misleading because opponents have been ahead on the scoreboard literally all year long and have been looking to run out the clock.

The Chiefs desperately need to get their pass rush going. After being one of the best pass rushing teams in the league last season, Kansas City has been able to muster just 13 sacks in seven games. Justin Houston has emerged as a great pass rusher at the outside linebacker position but he hasn’t been getting any help from Tamba Hali on the opposite side this season. That needs to turn around soon and this could be the perfect opportunity against a Chargers offensive line that really struggles to hold up on the outside. Jared Gaither has been exposed at the left tackle position all season and figures to be exposed again unless he gets some help from an extra tight end or running back throughout the contest.

The main issue for the Chiefs defense is that they realistically have little to no chance of containing Ryan Mathews in this contest. Kansas City gives up an average of 4.6 yards per carry and over 126 total yards per game on the ground, and has struggled to contain Mathews in the past. Mathews has averaged 98.8 total yards in five career meetings with the Chiefs and figures to see a lot of open space in this contest as long as he can hold on to the ball. Mathews has been plagued by fumbles to start the season and subsequently Ronnie Brown has seen a lot of snaps at the running back position. Brown is great as a pass catcher but is nowhere close to a mediocre running back at this point in his career, so the Chargers really need Mathews to have a big game here.

Philip Rivers really struggles in third-and-long situations but if the Chargers can run the ball effectively, Rivers will be facing more manageable situations and should have some success. Rivers should also be exploit the matchup between Antonio Gates and whatever safety the Chiefs decided to cover him with. That’s assuming Rivers isn’t spending half the game yelling at his offensive line and complaining to the refs about penalties.

On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs may actually be able to muster some semblance of an offense now that Matt Cassel is back under center. Cassel has been as awful as the image that Yahoo! selected for him on their player profile but he at least gives the Chiefs a chance to move the ball somewhat consistently. San Diego’s defense has given up nearly 250 passing yards per game this season and has only been able to generate 12 sacks, so there’s definitely an opportunity for Cassel here. That’s assuming that Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin can actually hold on to the ball for a change.

Realistically though, it’s highly unlikely that the Chiefs are going to be able to pull out this game on the back of Cassel. Kansas City needs to get their running game going to stand any chance of making things respectable. The Chiefs average a whopping 155.1 yards per game on the ground but you can be sure that the Chargers are going to stack the box and force Matt Cassel to try to beat them with his arm. San Diego has been extremely stout against the run this season but did allow Jamaal Charles to pick up 5.2 yards per carry in their earlier meeting this season, so this is a battle that the Chiefs will feel they can win.

Ultimately, this game could really go either way. I have visions of Kansas City walking into San Diego and pulling off the outright win, but then I’m reminded that the Chiefs could easily lose this game by five touchdowns if they fall behind early. In the end, I’m going to pick the Chiefs to win outright so that I look like a hero if it happens, and if it doesn’t, well, I won’t lose any sleep over it.

Prediction: Chiefs 20, Chargers 17

Recommendation: In the second paragraph of this preview I wrote that “I can’t envision putting my money on either of these sides with any confidence”. That statement was entirely true. I have absolutely no confidence whatsoever in Kansas City, but I feel like this is way too many points to be spotting a Chargers team that’s playingterrible football right now. The Browns played a HORRIBLE game last week and still found a way to beat San Diego, so it’s entirely possible that the Chiefs could get away with that this week as well. It’s also entirely possible that the Chargers have completely given up on Norv Turner.

At the end of the day, the Chargers just always seem to find a way to lose. They’ll probably give up some sort of special teams touchdown (maybe on the opening kickoff), and then Rivers will implode and gift the Chiefs with a bunch of turnovers. I’ll be making a recreational play on the Chiefs +9 on my SportsInteraction account.

Depending on how the first quarter goes, I may decide to catch up on Season 3 of Justified. Man, that’s a solid show. Good luck tonight.