- The Chiefs haven't lost to the Chargers since 2013, and figure to trot out one of the NFL's most explosive offenses this season. So why are they getting 3.5 points in Los Angeles?
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5)
Sun. 9/9, 4:05 p.m.
Three things you need to know before betting on Chiefs-Chargers:
1. When people tell the story of the Chargers’ 2017 season, the narrative tends to focus primarily on the fact that the team started 0-4 before rattling off nine wins over its final 12 games, only to end up narrowly missing out on a playoff berth to a pair of fellow 9-7 AFC teams (Buffalo and Tennessee). The story then goes on to reason that the Chargers are a team on the rise that righted the proverbial ship. This is the reason that, from a gambling perspective, Los Angeles enters the 2018 season as the clear betting favorite to win the AFC West.
Closer analysis of last season, however, reveals that the Chargers were able to halt their four-game losing streak with consecutive wins against three teams (Giants, Raiders and Broncos) that would end 2017 with a combined record of 14-34. Los Angeles then lost two straight to fall to 3-6 before reeling off four consecutive wins against:
• a Buffalo squad that inexplicably decided to start unprepared rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions in the first half to spot the Chargers a 37-7 lead
• a Dallas team that was reeling after having been outscored 64-16 over its two previous games, which were the first two it played after star running back Ezekiel Elliott began serving his six-game suspension
• a winless Browns squad that lost in Los Angeles, 19-10, as a 13.5-point underdog, marking the first time in 413 days that Cleveland covered a point spread in a road game
• the Redskins, which had a losing record at the time and would end the season with a losing mark that included a 2-6 record away from home
A more accurate summation of the Chargers’ 2017 season is that the team lost to all of the teams to which it should’ve lost while beating most of the teams it should have beaten. Los Angeles went 0-5 against opponents that ended 2017 with double-digit wins, and the Chargers went 6-2 against opponents that concluded the season with double-digit losses. (The three remaining games were the aforementioned victories over Buffalo, Dallas and Washington.)
2. Two of the Chargers’ five losses to 10-win teams in 2017 were at the hands of the Chiefs, who won 24-10 in Los Angeles in Week 3 and 30-13 in Kansas City in Week 15. To find the last time the Chiefs lost to the Chargers in the regular season, you'd have to go all the way back to the 2013 finale—and even that was a game the Bolts nearly lost despite being a 15-point home favorite against a Kansas City squad that was resting its key players after having already locked up its playoff seed. (Want proof that K.C. was resting its starters? Consider that the team’s leading receiver in that game was the not-exactly-immortal A.J. Jenkins with 67 yards, roughly 43% of the total number of receiving yards he accumulated over his other 27 career NFL games.) And were it not for the officials of that game failing to call an illegal formation penalty that the NFL admitted the following day should have been called, Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop would’ve had a chance to end the game in regulation with a 36-yard field goal attempt that would’ve prevented the game from going into overtime.
In the eight consecutive games the Chiefs have played and won against their division rival since then, they’ve outscored the Chargers by an average margin of more than 12 points per game. Each of the past three games Kansas City has played and won against the Chargers on the road have been decided by 10 or more points, with the Chiefs winning by an average of 18 points per game. And if you need a betting system to convince you to back the Chiefs here, consider that in the first two weeks of a season, teams that closed the prior season with back-to-back wins but failed to make the playoffs are 4-23-2 ATS since the start of 2009.
Had officials gotten the call right on Raiders tight end Jared Cook being down by contact short of the goal line with 16 seconds remaining in what would turn out to be a 31-30 win for Oakland over Kansas City last October, the Chiefs would be putting a 17-game win streak against AFC West opponents on the line in Southern California on Sunday. As it stands, Kansas City has a 13-4 ATS mark versus divisional opponents to go along with its 16-1 win-loss record over that time frame. The Chargers, on the other hand, are 6-18 straight up and 9-14-1 ATS against AFC West foes since the start of the 2014 season.
3. For those who want to argue that the experience at the quarterback position gives Los Angeles an edge with veteran Philip Rivers making his 193rd career start while Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes makes his second, a counterpoint can be made that the Chiefs’ offense will be more explosive than any that Andy Reid has overseen in his previous six years as Kansas City’s head coach. The addition of wideout Sammy Watkins as a deep outside threat to a unit that already had dynamic talent at the running back (Kareem Hunt), tight end (Travis Kelce) and wide receiver (Tyreek Hill) positions should be enough to compensate for Mahomes’s lack of experience. Then come late Sunday evening, the storyline for the AFC West in 2018 can shift to where it should have began in the first place, with the team to beat being the one that has been dominating the division for years.
Pick: Kansas City +3.5
Confidence Level: Extremely High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)