NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots
No, Chargers fans, the NFL doesn't have it out for your franchise. Would most owners prefer you move back to San Diego? Probably. But the fact your squad is playing back-to-back playoff games in the 10 a.m. Pacific time window is really just coincidence instead of a conspiracy.
Last Sunday in that window, the AFC No. 5 Bolts were dominant in Baltimore, and their reward is a trip to frigid Foxboro this Sunday to face the No. 2 Patriots - who are just about invincible at home in the Tom Brady era.
What choice did the NFL have here with the scheduling? It always sticks the least attractive matchup in the late afternoon window on Saturday - that was Colts-Texans last weekend. Then it wants the marquee teams playing on Saturday night and Sunday late afternoon. That was Dallas (vs. Seattle) last Saturday and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles at the Bears last Sunday.
This week, the clear matchup lacking national cache is Colts-Chiefs, so that's on Saturday afternoon. Cowboys-Rams was a no-brainer Saturday night matchup as was Eagles-Saints on Sunday late afternoon. Now, if the Chargers had won their division and weren't facing back-to-back East Coast teams, then perhaps their fans would have had an argument with back-to-back 10 a.m. Pacific starts.
Good news, though: Win this and the AFC title game kicks off around 3:40 Pacific time. The Bolts could host that game if Indianapolis wins in Kansas City, a very real possibility. The Patriots would only host the AFC title game with a Colts upset as well.
At 5Dimes , New England is a +230 second-favorite to win another AFC title and L.A. is +445.
Chargers at Patriots Betting Story Lines
Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger will always be linked as first-round quarterbacks of the 2004 NFL Draft. I could make an argument that Rivers is the best regular-season QB of the three (no question better than Manning), but Eli and Big Ben each have two Super Bowl rings. That might be Rivers' last, best chance to win one or even reach a Super Bowl.
Rivers wasn't the reason that L.A. won 23-17 last Sunday in Baltimore. Rivers threw for just 160 yards - third straight game with 185 or fewer - with no TDs. The defense, probably the most underrated unit in the NFL, was spectacular. After seeing Lamar Jackson and that run-heavy Ravens group in Week 16, the Chargers seemed to know exactly what was coming at them on every play. They bottled up the run and Jackson simply isn't a good enough passing QB yet to beat good teams.
Still, I worry about that Chargers offense considering it was a third straight game with 23 points or fewer. Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen still don't look right - but let's give some credit to that excellent Baltimore defense. Rivers, incidentally, is 0-7 in his career as a starting QB opposite Brady (including playoffs). Rivers' only win vs. the Pats came in 2008 when Brady was out for the season.
Could this be the last home game as a Patriot for Coach Bill Belichick and tight end Rob Gronkowski? Don't rule that out. I believe Gronk retires after this season, and the fact that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reportedly turned down the Browns' head coaching job has me thinking Belichick might retire.
The Patriots will host a Divisional game for the ninth straight season, the most in NFL history. New England's 15 total Divisional wins are second in league annals to Pittsburgh's 16. The Pats were the only team in the league this season to finish unbeaten at home and have won their past 15 there by an average of nearly 16 points. Then again, the Chargers' only losses this season were in Los Angeles - their lone road defeat was at the Rams.
New England is 2-1 against the Chargers in the playoffs. They last met in the AFC title game following the 2007 season, which New England won 21-12. They last played in the regular season Week 8 in Foxboro in 2017, and the Patriots won 21-13. Brady threw for 333 and a score, while Gordon rushed for 132 and a TD to lead L.A.
Chargers at Patriots Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , New England is a 4-point favorite (-110) with a total of 47. On the moneyline, the Pats are -200 and Bolts +170. Some alternate lines: Patriots -7.5 (+160), -7 (+145), -3.5 (-117), -3 (-142) and -2.5 (-165). Chargers -1 (+178). Los Angeles is 10-7 against the spread (8-1 on road) and 8-9 "over/under" (5-4 on road). New England is 9-7 ATS (6-2 at home) and 5-11 O/U (2-6 at home).
The Chargers are 5-1 ATS in their past six road playoff games. They are 4-0 ATS in their past four road games vs. teams with a winning home record. The Patriots are 6-1 ATS in their past seven Divisional games. They are 13-3 ATS in their past 16 following a win of at least 14 points. The under is 4-1 in the Bolts' past five. It's 6-1 in the Patriots' past seven vs. the AFC. The under is 5-1 in the previous six meetings. The Patriots are 4-0 ATS in the past four.
Chargers at Patriots Betting Prediction
Two things really worked in the Chargers' favor last week: They had seen that unique but predictable Baltimore offense a few weeks earlier, and it was unusually warm. Alas, L.A. hasn't seen the Patriots this season, and it's going to be quite cold Sunday with a high of 29, although at least no precipitation.
The Chargers have the better overall roster and would be my pick to win at home or at a neutral site, but I'm backing New England -2.5 at home. Go under the total.
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