Tied for the best record in the AFC, the Los Angeles Chargers return home on an emotional high after stunning the Chiefs and have the Baltimore Ravens on the docket in Week 16. The Chargers are 5-2 SU in seven games at home but have failed to cover in five of them, while the Ravens are running for their playoff lives and have won four of their last five games (3-2 ATS) with rookie QB Lamar Jackson taking the snaps.
The Chargers opened as 6-point favorites (since moved to 4.5) with a total of 45 (since moved to 44.5).
Chargers’ Lack of Home-Field Advantage May Burn Spread Bettors Again
To say the Chargers are much better on the road this season would be an understatement. They’ve won in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Seattle and across the pond in London vs Tennessee and were underdogs in three of those games. So, you would think they should be easily handling teams at home, right?
Well, that has not proven to be the case mainly because the Chargers have virtually no home-field advantage while they’re in flux awaiting a move to a new stadium in Carson City. Visiting fans use the StubHub Center as a means to catch their favorite team while they’re in town and while there are no stats to support this claim, ask anyone who has watched and/or attended a Chargers home game lately and they’ll likely agree. So, when you see that they’re 2-5 ATS in seven home games this year despite winning five of them, that usually tends to show that road teams can focus through the lax crowd and have a higher chance to get the backdoor cover on the Chargers.
If the Chargers are to win and cover in this game, it will be because of their defense. Los Angeles ranks in the top 10 in rushing yards and passing yards allowed per game and its rush defense will be put to the ultimate test when facing Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, who is averaging five yards per carry and an insane 17.2 rushing attempts per game (more on him later).
I know the Chargers are the sexy team to like in the AFC right now and they could very well win this game but two of their last three wins required incredible fourth-quarter comebacks and they almost let an awful Bengals team steal a victory (26-21 final) when LA was tabbed as a 16.5-point home favorite. Another trend that doesn’t sit well regarding the Chargers is they’re 2-6 ATS in their last eight games vs East Coast teams. I wouldn’t necessarily use that trend as the sole reason for betting against them but there are warning signs for bettors thinking the Chargers roll to an easy victory.
Ravens’ Current Rushing Attack is Unrivaled
17.2 rushing attempts. According to ProFootballTalk, that is the highest average number of rushing attempts per game by a quarterback since 1970, with the highest mark at 10.1 attempts for a full season. What Lamar Jackson is doing is unprecedented and may not be good for his long-term health but for now, it’s winning football games and has helped push the Ravens to second in the NFL in rushing yards per game and fourth in rushing touchdowns.
Keeping Philip Rivers on the sideline and owning the time of possession will be crucial for Baltimore to have a chance to win this game because let’s face it, Jackson still has a long way to go as a pocket passer. The rookie QB is only completing 58.9 percent of his passes and has yet to top 200 yards passing in a game in his short career.
The Ravens knew their quarterback play this season wouldn’t likely be the reason they’d win games and the defense has been the backbone of their success. Look at how the Ravens defense stacks up in some key categories this year:
The defensive metrics are outstanding and this is why the Ravens have covered in all three of their road games this season when tabbed as an underdog. Two of those games they won outright vs the Steelers and Falcons and the one game they lost was to the Chiefs on an improbable fourth-down conversion by Patrick Mahomes. The more I read and write about the Ravens, the more I feel comfortable taking them to cover the spread and potentially win.
Chargers ‘Home’ Games Leading to UNDERs Lately
The total opened at 45 (since moved to 44.5) and when the Chargers take the field at StubHub Center, UNDERs tend to follow. The UNDER has hit in four of their last five games at home with an average combined score of 44.4 points per game. A razor-thin margin may make the total a stay-away for me but if the Ravens win this game, it will likely be because they didn’t allow Rivers and the Chargers offense to move the ball. For what it’s worth, the UNDER has also hit in 14 of the Chargers’ last 17 games in December.
My Pick Is…
To take the Ravens to cover the spread. I think outside of the three-point loss to the Chiefs, John Harbaugh has found a winning formula to keep games close and let the Ravens defense dictate the pace of the game. Unless Lamar Jackson gets hurt early in the game and they have to go back to Joe Flacco, I expect the Ravens to give the Chargers everything they can handle.
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