- While the Chargers tend to beat up on inferior competition, they’ve consistently struggled against teams with similar records. Don't be afraid to bet on the Steelers at home on Sunday night.
Los Angeles Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5)
Sun. 12/2, 8:20 p.m. ET
Five things you need to know before betting on Chargers-Steelers:
1. When people told the story of the Chargers’ 2017 season, the narrative tended 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). 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 previous two games, the first 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.
- a Redskins team that 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 proper summation of the Chargers’ 2017 season would be 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 10 or more wins and was 6-2 against opponents that concluded the season with 10 or more losses. (The three remaining games were the aforementioned victories over Buffalo, Dallas and Washington.)
2. The Chargers’ 2018 storyline is similar to that of 2017, as Los Angeles has suffered double-digit defeats in the only two games it has played against teams that would be in the playoffs if the regular season were to end today. Meanwhile, all but one of the Chargers’ six ATS victories this season have come against teams that are on pace to end 2018 with six or fewer victories.
3. The Steelers are 8-1-1 against the spread under head coach Mike Tomlin when coming off a game in which the team gained at least 500 yards of total offense, and Pittsburgh is 7-3 against the spread under Tomlin when coming off a game with a turnover margin of worse than minus-three.
4. NFL home favorites coming off a four-game stretch during which they won three games are 25-4-1 against the spread since the start of 2009 when facing an opponent that comes in having won eight or more of its previous 10 games, with the visiting team having been outscored by an average margin of more than 11 points over those 30 games.
5. This marks the third time since the start of October that the Steelers have been favored at home by 3.5 points—Pittsburgh won the previous two games by 24 and 31 points, respectively, over Atlanta and Carolina. The final margin won’t be nearly as lopsided here, but there’s reason to suspect that the Steelers will prevail by at least twice as many points as this relatively modest spread.
Pick: Pittsburgh -3.5
Confidence Level: Extremely High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)