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AFC West Up For Grabs When Chargers, Chiefs Clash on TNF

With both teams requiring late-game heroics to escape Week 14 with a W, the Los Angeles Chargers head to Arrowhead Stadium to try to knock off the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs. These teams are the toast of the AFC with a combined 21-5 SU and 15-10-1 ATS record in 26 games but it’s the Chiefs who have played the Big Brother role in this rivalry, winning nine of the last 10 games in this matchup (8-2 ATS).

The Chiefs opened as 3.5-point favorites with a total of 56.5 (since moved to 53.5).

SHARK BITES
  • The Chiefs lead the NFL in points per game at 36.2.
  • The Chargers are 5-1 SU and ATS in 6 road games this season.
  • The OVER has hit in 4 of the Chiefs’ last 5 games.

Chargers vs Chiefs Game Center

Chiefs Offense Still Elite With New Running Backs

It may have taken four quarters and four minutes of overtime but the Chiefs offense proved once again in Week 14 that it is near-impossible to stop. KC was tested early and often by the Ravens’ formidable defense but even they succumbed to Patrick Mahomes, who has regained his status as the betting favorite to win NFL MVP. With that win, the Chiefs now lead the NFL in points per game at 36.2 and are first with 43 passing touchdowns. Side note: Mahomes needs to throw 13 more TDs over the next three games to break the all-time record for touchdown passes in a season.

It speaks to how amazing the Chiefs offense is when they’re 11-2 SU (8-4-1 ATS) in 13 games this season despite ranking near the bottom in key defensive categories:

  • 27 points allowed per game – ranked 27th
  • 127.8 rushing yards allowed per game – ranked 25th
  • 281.8 passing yards allowed per game – ranked 32nd
  • 338 first downs allowed – ranked 32nd
  • 39.6 percent for opponent third-down completion – ranked 21st
  • 64 percent for opponent fourth-down completion – ranked 26th

That does not paint a pretty picture, but to be fair, the Chiefs have been getting by with splash plays as evidenced by their 42 sacks (ranked second) and 19 forced fumbles (also second). Obviously, the sacks and fumbles aren’t sustainable but scoring at that clip easily covers up the yardage issues.

Then once you dive into the matchup itself, the Chiefs seem like a no-brainer to win and cover based on recent history. Kansas City has won nine straight in this matchup by an average margin of 12.1 points and hasn’t lost to the Chargers in almost five years (December 23, 2013). Then when you look at how the Chiefs have performed at Arrowhead Stadium this season (6-0 SU with an average win margin of 14 points), it’s hard to pick against them with such a small number of points to cover the spread.

If bettors are looking for any reason to fade the Chiefs, it’s worth noting that both Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill are on the mend with Watkins ruled out and Hill limited due to a foot injury.

Chargers are the New Road Warriors of the NFL

Coming off an impressive win at Heinz Field after being down 14 points at halftime, the Chargers had to be feeling good at home as 17-point favorites vs the Bengals … before they almost allowed Cincinnati to come back to win the game. The Bungles obviously fell short but this may be a foreshadowing of LA’s inability to close out games consistently.

I may be hard on the Chargers, who are an impressive 9-1 SU and 6-4 ATS in their last 10 games, but with the way the Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs have played this season, their window to get to the Super Bowl has opened and it can close fast in the AFC. The Chargers are 5-1 SU and ATS in six road games this season with their only loss coming to their neighbors in Southern California, the suddenly vulnerable Rams.

Philip Rivers is in the discussion as an MVP candidate but the Chiefs are easily his worst enemy based on statistical output. Rivers owns a career 13-13 SU record vs the Chiefs with 36 TDs to an ugly 31 interceptions and 11 career fumbles. I’m not saying that he will fall back into poor play against his division rival but those numbers do not inspire confidence in bettors looking to keep riding the Chargers wave.

I wrote the preview to this matchup last year when the AFC West and/or a playoff spot was on the line and the Chargers were the darlings of the conference. They then proceeded to get smashed 30-13 with Rivers throwing one touchdown to three interceptions. I think this Chargers squad is a little bit different from a defensive standpoint (ranked sixth in points allowed per game) but worry that it won’t be enough to stop the offensive machine known as the Chiefs. They’ll also be relying a little more on Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome in the running game as both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are likely out for this divisional matchup.

Potent Offenses Should Lead to An OVER

The total opened at 56.5 (since moved to 53.5) and with the Chiefs involved, no UNDER is safe, which is why I like the OVER. The OVER has hit in four of the Chiefs’ last five games with an average combined score of 65.4 points per game. That number may be slightly inflated by the combined final score of 105 from the Rams game but that shows that their defense still gives up a ton of points too. Factoring in that the OVER has hit in four of the Chargers’ six road games this season, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone taking the UNDER.

My Pick Is…

To take the OVER and the Chiefs to cover the spread on separate wagers. The history of this matchup speaks to me and the Chiefs have been involved in some crazy shootouts this season, which makes me think another one is in store. I also like that they seem to have Rivers’ number over the last five seasons and at -3.5, it seems like a gift for a spread so small.