2018 Los Angeles Chargers Road Schedule Odds with Expert Picks and Predictions
SI.com recently wrote a story about how this could be perhaps the greatest NFL season in the history of the state of California. When it has had four teams, all of them have never made the playoffs in the same season.
Could happen this year, and I actually saw one sportsbook had a prop called California Dreamin': the Rams, 49ers, Chargers and Raiders are +500 to win Super Bowl LIII against the field at -700. That's intriguing because I could easily see all four California teams in this coming postseason - although the two NFC and AFC clubs each playing in the same division doesn't help matters.
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We've looked at the Rams' road slate already here at Doc's and will get to the 49ers and Raiders down the road. Today, it's the Chargers, who barely missed the playoffs in 2017 with a 9-7 record. They might almost prefer playing away from home because it sure seems like visiting fans outnumbered Chargers fans last year in that 30,000-seat soccer stadium that the Bolts are stuck in until 2020 when they move into a shared palace with the Rams.
Unfortunately, the Chargers already have suffered one of the NFL's biggest injuries from offseason workouts. Tight end Hunter Henry, the long-term replacement for future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, tore his ACL on the first day of OTAs in May. The Bolts had basically kicked the 37-year-old Gates to the curb this offseason (might bring him back now) as the 23-year-old Henry took over as the Chargers' primary tight end in 2017, finishing with 45 catches for 579 receiving yards and four scores. In the 14 games he played in last year, the Chargers went 7-1 when he was targeted at least five times and 0-6 when he wasn't.
It still should be a very good passing offense, especially getting something from 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams. The receiver missed nearly all of his rookie season with a back injury. Running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are good pass-catching weapons out of the backfield, and QB Philip Rivers has one of the NFL's top receivers in Keenan Allen.
The Chargers were 4-4 on the road last year, 4-3-1 against the spread and 2-6 "over/under." Los Angeles travels to four playoff teams from 2017: Buffalo, LA Rams, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. The road schedule is way tougher than the home version. I project a 4-4 away record again. Odds listed for the home team.
Sept. 16 at Bills (+1): Huge break here traveling to Buffalo in mid-September instead of perhaps Dec. 16. Homecoming for Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, who was an interim head coach in Buffalo briefly at the end of 2016 after serving as the team's offensive coordinator under Rex Ryan. The Chargers trashed the visiting Bills last year, 54-24, picking off rookie QB Nathan Peterman five times in the first half. Key trend: Chargers 5-5 ATS in past 10 as September road favorite.
Sept. 23 at Rams (-3.5): This actually starts a three-game run against the California teams with home games vs. the 49ers and Raiders the following two weeks. Barring a Super Bowl or preseason matchup, the next time these clubs would play would be in that new $5 billion stadium. Least it will be all L.A. fans in attendance for this one and not out-of-towners. Key trend: Chargers 5-5 ATS in past 10 at NFC West foes.
Oct. 14 at Browns (+4): Potential trap game off a big home matchup vs. Oakland and ahead of a trip to London. Cleveland's last win was at home in Week 16 against the Chargers in perhaps the biggest trap game in NFL history. With the team off to London after this, it will apparently stay in the Midwest a bit before flying over. Key trend: Chargers 4-6 ATS in past 10 as at least a 3-point road favorite.
Nov. 4 at Seahawks (pick'em): Chargers off their bye week. Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley first made a name for himself in the same role with Seattle. The Chargers haven't win in Seattle, a former division rival, since 1999. Key trend: Chargers 3-7 ATS in past 10 after bye (any location).
Nov. 1 at Raiders (pick'em): The Chargers won in the Black Hole last year, 17-16, in Week 6 on Nick Novak's 32-yard field goal on the final play of the game. Oakland's kicker had earlier missed an extra point. Gordon ran for 83 yards and scored twice. Key trend: Chargers 6-4 ATS in past 10 at Oakland.
Dec. 2 at Steelers (-4.5): Winning in Pittsburgh tough enough, but in potential wintry weather with a 1 p.m. ET start time? Maybe L.A. will get lucky and this will be flexed to prime time. Never know, could be last matchup between 2014 first-round quarterbacks in Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger, both future Hall of Famers. The Chargers are 2-8 against Pittsburgh over the last 10 meetings. Key trend: Chargers 3-7 ATS in past 10 at Steelers.
Dec. 13 at Chiefs (-2): Thursday night. Will the Chargers be on a nine-game losing streak in the series entering this one? Depends on Week 1. I'm sure, in lieu of that losing skid, the Bolts would much prefer to see Patrick Mahomes than Alex Smith. The Chargers lost in K.C. on a Saturday in Week 15 last year, 30-13. Rivers was picked off three times. Key trend: Chargers 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 30 at Broncos (TBA): Per usual, no Week 17 lines. So that's three straight likely cold-weather road games to close the year for L.A. Not good. The Chargers haven't won in Denver since 2013. They lost their season opener in there last year, 24-21, when a potential game-tying kick was blocked in the final seconds. Rivers threw for three scores. Key trend: Chargers 5-3-2 ATS in past 10 in Denver.
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