NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
Did the NFL and the Fox Network luck out with the Thursday night matchup in Week 15 or what? The TNF finale for the 2018 season is probably the most important game of the year as the Los Angeles Chargers (10-3) visit the Kansas City Chiefs (11-2).
This writer believes these are the AFC's two best teams when at full strength. Kansas City no longer is after releasing Kareem Hunt, while the Chargers likely will be missing their top two tailbacks on Thursday. More on that shortly. It's a crying shame that one of these teams will not get a single postseason home game and will head on the road on Wild-Card Weekend. Maybe at the AFC North champion, which could finish with a .500 record.
It's pretty simple for the Chiefs: Win here and they are the AFC West champions. It would also give them a magic number of 1 to be the conference's top seed. This past Sunday couldn't have gone much better for Kansas City as New England, Houston and Pittsburgh were all upset. The Chiefs close at Seattle, which could be a loss, and home to Oakland, which surely will be a win.
Could we have an all-Los Angeles Super Bowl? They both could be their respective conference's top seed, although neither is right now. The Chargers would obviously pull even with the Chiefs with an upset but still wouldn't hold the tiebreaker. The first is head-to-head and they would split. The second is record in division, and Kansas City is 4-0, while L.A. is 2-2. Again, though, the Chiefs could well lose in Seattle in Week 16. The Chargers close home to Baltimore and at Denver. Neither too easy.
Chargers at Chiefs Betting Story Lines
Both teams could have lost Sunday in potential trap games. The Chargers were giving way too many points to visiting Cincinnati (+14) as the Bolts were coming off a very emotional comeback win in Pittsburgh and then ahead of this. Plus, they were without Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon for a second straight game. L.A. did pull it out, 26-21. Philip Rivers had thrown multiple TD passes in every game this year but was held to one. Austin Ekeler rushed for 66 yards and a score - breaking the hearts of everyone who picked up Justin Jackson (seven carries, 12 yards) for the fantasy football playoffs - but Ekeler was injured late in the game on an onside kick.
Gordon is likely to be a game-time call Thursday with his sprained MCL. If he can walk, you'd think Gordon would play with how important this game is. Plus, then he gets a few extra days off. As of this writing, though, it's not considered likely he plays. Ekeler is doubtful for Thursday with a stinger. If both are out, then obviously Jackson will be a busy guy. Kansas City struggles against the run, allowing 127.8 yards per game.
The Chiefs were in a dogfight on Sunday vs. the Ravens but won 27-24 in overtime in a game that sure felt like it was the postseason. Patrick Mahomes might have won the MVP Award in that one. Dude was crazy. He had a no-look pass that was just insane, hit Tyreek Hill on a 48-yard off-balance bullet on fourth-and-9 from the Chiefs' 40 with 1:29 to play, and then hit Damien Williams on the tying 5-yard TD pass with under a minute left. A signature performance in an incredible season.
With Drew Brees struggling a bit of late, Mahomes is again the MVP betting favorite. He threw for 377 yards and two scores. Mahomes leads the NFL with 4,300 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes. Travis Kelce had a nice game with seven catches for 77 yards and a score and has become the first tight end ever with at least 80 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons. Again, if there's one concern it's the running game without Hunt. Kansas City totaled 94 yards on 24 carries vs. Baltimore. In addition, the spectacular Hill apparently suffered a foot/heel injury Sunday but surely will play. He just may not practice. Spencer Ware is also banged up but likely to play.
There's some chatter that Chiefs safety Eric Berry (heel) will make his season debut. He nearly played vs. the Ravens and hasn't been in a game since Week 1 of the 2017 season.
Chargers at Chiefs Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Kansas City is a 3-point favorite (-130) with a total of 52.5. On the moneyline, the Chiefs are -185 and Chargers +160. On the alternate lines, K.C. is -3.5 (-105) and -2.5 (-155). Los Angeles is 7-6 against the spread (5-1 on road) and 7-6 "over/under" (4-2 on road). Kansas City is 8-4-1 ATS (3-3 at home) and 8-4-1 O/U (2-3-1 at home).
The Bolts are 5-1 ATS in their past six Thursday games. The Chiefs are 12-3 ATS in their previous 15 vs. the AFC West. The under is 8-1 in the Chargers' past nine vs. the division. The over is 4-1 in the Chiefs' past five on Thursday. L.A. is 0-4 ATS in the past four meetings. Kansas City is 5-0-1 ATS in its past six night games.
Chargers at Chiefs Betting Prediction
Kansas City has won nine straight in this series by an average margin of just over 12 points. It was 38-28 in Week 1 as the world was welcomed to the Mahomes era as he threw four TD passes. Hill caught seven passes for 169 yards and two scores while returning a punt 91 yards for a TD. The Chargers gashed Kansas City for 541 yards but turned it over twice and missed a field goal.
With Gordon and Ekeler probably sitting, I just don't think the Bolts will be balanced enough to go toe-to-toe with that Kansas City offense. Go Chiefs at -2.5 and over the total.
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