Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM

TNF - Chargers at Chiefs

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L.A. Chargers at Kansas City (-3.5, 53.5), 8:20 pm ET, FOX/NFLN

The Chiefs have been ahead of the Chargers since winning their Week 1 showdown, but must take them down again to open Week 15 in order to avoid being tied atop the AFC West.

With just three regular-season games remaining, this Thursday night clash represents the best matchup we’ll see all week. That’s truly saying something since there’s also action on Saturday in addition to a fully Sunday and a quality Monday night game between the Panthers and Saints.

Nothing will top L.A. at Kansas City in terms of importance, so hopefully the on-field product will rise up and match the magnitude of this game’s implications.

The difference between being able to coast through its final weeks of the season and ensure itself homefield advantage as long as Kansas City is alive into the conference championship game rides on being able to extend dominant streaks over the Chargers and at Arrowhead this season. The Chiefs have won nine straight against L.A. and are a perfect 6-0 on their home turf, winning four of the games by double-digits.




Baltimore was able to push the Chiefs for four quarters on Sunday, leading into the final minute of action and requiring Patrick Mahomes to convert on a pair of fourth downs. With 1:29 left, Kansas City’s quarterback rolled to his right and bought himself just enough time to throw across his body and connect with Tyreek Hill for 48 yards on a 4th-and-9 conversion that may go down as one of the most impactful plays this NFL season if the Chiefs are able to hold serve on Thursday night. Kansas City was able to tie the Ravens and ended up with a 27-24 overtime win.

They enter this showdown with L.A. with their third-string running back set to get a heavy workload after registering the game-tying score on a five-yard pass from Mahomes with 53 seconds left. Kareem Hunt was cut following video of his confrontation with a woman being released by TMZ on Nov. 30 and his backup, Spencer Ware, is doubtful due to a shoulder injury. That leaves Damien Williams as tonight’s likely starter with rookie Darrel Williams and veteran Charcandrick West also available for carries.

The Chargers also have a complicated situation at running back entering this one since Melvin Gordon is doing his best to return early from a knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup. My expectation is that he won’t look like his usual self if he does make it back out on to the field, but the magnitude of this game is so great that it’s understandable he wants to make every effort to get back out there since competent backup Austin Ekeler has already been ruled out after suffering a stinger. Rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome would be called upon if Gordon can’t go. Read up on this matchup’s other injury-related concerns below.

Given all the attrition at running back, everyone should expect that the arms of Mahomes and veteran Philip Rivers will ultimately decide matters, but there’s a possibility that we’ll see rain in the second half of this one. It’s also expected to be a windy night with gusts rising into the high teens, which makes Mahomes’ stronger arm a weapon. Snow that was originally expected to be part of the festivities is now unlikely to materialize, but temperatures should be in the high-30s.

Mahomes beat the Chargers in the season opener by throwing four touchdown passes, two of which went to Tyreek Hill, who also opened the scoring with a 91-yard punt return less than two minutes in. Rivers threw for three scores in a game where the Chargers came up well short despite 541 yards of offense, turning it over twice. In many ways, from losing the battle of time of possession by nearly 10 full minutes to getting lit up in yardage despite winning handily, the Chiefs showed us very early how they were going to do things this season. It would therefore not be surprising to see more chunk plays and home run balls from Kansas City in this rematch.

Only Week 5’s contest against the Jaguars saw the Chiefs favored by fewer points at home than oddsmakers have saddled them with for this one, which is in part a nod to L.A.’s excellence in opposing stadiums. Because they’re awaiting Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park that they’ll be sharing with the Rams to open the 2020 season to finish being built, the Chargers have been playing “home” games in Carson’s soccer stadium, the StubHub Center. The L.A. Galaxy consider that a great place to play. The Chargers, understandably, do not.

The joke can be made that the Chargers will be playing their 14th road game of the season here since support for them is so scarce in Carson that their own fans are often drowned out by those from the visiting team. Players have commented that not having a true homefield edge has toughened up and contributed to their success in true road games since they’ve only lost once, falling to the Rams 35-23 back on Sept. 23.

Indeed, the Bolts are perfect outside of L.A. See, it’s funny.

The Chargers’ most recent road conquest came in a 33-30 upset of the Steelers to open December, moving them to 3-1 SU and ATS as a road underdog. They struggled some in a 26-21 win over Cincinnati as a 16-point favorite but were clearly playing not to lose as opposed to putting their foot on the gas. That shouldn’t factor in here given that there’s a division on the line.

Ironically, winning would put the Chargers in line for homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, which would at least mean they could sleep in their own beds and come out of the same locker room for a few rounds of the playoffs, so defeating the Chiefs would have value despite the team’s lack of a true edge at home. To win, they’ll need Rivers to play his best in a big game, which has certainly been an issue in the past. He’ll be facing a Kansas City defense that ranks last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (281.8) and 27th in points allowed (27.0), so it’s important that he takes advantage as long as Mother Nature allows him to. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams will try and wreak havoc against a secondary that gets back a familiar face at the perfect time.

Read on below for line movement from Week 14 to Thursday’s numbers, total talk, injury analysis, recent series history and next week’s numbers.


Los Angeles Chargers
Season win total: 9 (Over -140, Under +120)
Odds to win AFC West: 4/1 to 6/1
Odds to win AFC: 4/1 to 7/2
Odds to win Super Bowl: 9/1 to 8/1
 
Kansas City Chiefs
Season win total: 8.5 (Over +115, Under -135)
Odds to win AFC West: 1/7 to 1/9
Odds to win AFC: 2/1 to 7/5
Odds to win Super Bowl: 9/2 to 9/2
 
LINE MOVEMENT

Both teams have already surpassed their projected win totals and opened the season with longer Super Bowl odds at Westgate LV Superbook than they have to date. Kansas City was 15-to-1 to win the AFC and 30-to-1 to win the Super Bowl, so anyone holding on to one of those tickets is going to be looking great if the Chiefs are able to secure homefield advantage. The Chargers opened the season 6-to-1 to win the AFC and 12-to-1 to win the Super Bowl.

When the season began, L.A. was a 6-to-5 favorite to win the division, while the Chiefs were projected second at 11-to-4. The Broncos and Raiders brought up the rear in terms of expectations at 4/1. If you like L.A. outright tonight, there's certainly value in getting in on this week's divisional odds given the remaining schedule for both teams. They'll each cash playoff props for backers with Kansas City paying out +140 and the Chargers a far less lucrative -160.

As far as this matchup is concerned, the Chiefs were a 4-point favorite when the Westgate's early numbers were announced and opened at the 3.5-point spread that is most widely available as of Thursday morning. Westgate had a spread set at -3 with juice of -120 earlier this week but has again parked its number at 3.5.

Kansas City is in the -190 range on the money line. If you like the road 'dog outright, a payout on the Chargers win will get you +160 to +170 depending on where you wager.


INJURY CONCERNS

Hill is arguably the most important Chiefs player outside of Mahomes and has continued making plays despite a heel injury. He’s averaging 17 yards per reception and makes the offense go thanks to his explosive speed commanding so much attention. With Sammy Watkins out with a foot injury and the team digging deep into the depth chart at running back, it’s vital that Hill stays out there for most snaps, even if he’s just playing decoy.

Eric Berry returns for his 2018 debut after missing 29 straight games following a ruptured Achilles suffered in the ’17 season opener. His importance as an emotional leader can’t be overstated, but it remains to be seen how he’ll look out on the field given how much rust he’s got to knock off. Kansas City’s other major injury concern comes up front, where they’ve already had to deviate some in replacing Laurent Duvernay-Tardif when he tore his fibula in October. Left guard Cam Erving is doubtful to play after suffering a knee injury against Baltimore. Jeff Allen should start and Kansas City has to cross its fingers that center Mitch Morse, who returned from a concussion, stays healthy given its lack of depth.

The Chargers’ top concern surrounds Gordon, but DT Brandon Mebane, an elite run stuffer, is also unlikely to participate since he’s dealing with a family emergency after his new daughter was born with a heart defect. Corner Trevor Williams and backup tight end Sean Culkin have been ruled out.


TOTAL TALK

The total opened 56 ½ for this matchup and the number has dropped to 53 ½ as of Thursday morning. Weekly “Total Talk” writer Chris David of VegasInsider.com offered up his thoughts on this AFC West matchup:

This isn’t an easy total to handicap since the game has serious playoff implications and if you’re buying that narrative, you could argue that both teams will be a little bit tighter especially on a short week.

When the pair met in Week 1, Kansas City stopped the Chargers 38-28 from Los Angeles and the ‘over’ (48 ½) connected early in the fourth quarter. What stood out in this game is that the Bolts outgained the Chiefs (541-362) but they lost the turnover battle (2-0) and settled for two early field goals.

Kansas City (8-5) and Los Angeles (7-6) have both leaned to the ‘over’ this season and they enter this matchup on a roll. The Chiefs (39.3 PPG) and Chargers (34.7 PPG) have put up some crooked numbers in their last three games and that’s resulted in 3-0 and 2-1 ‘over’ records respectively.

The Chiefs (32.7 PPG) haven’t been as explosive at home but their defensive numbers (18.7 PPG) at Arrowhead Stadium compared to allowing 34.1 PPG on the road.

This will be the fifth primetime game of the season for the Chiefs and they’ve seen their total results (2-2) split so far but three of those contests were on the road. Los Angeles just played on Sunday Night a couple weeks ago as it rallied from an impressive 33-30 win over the Steelers.

Despite allowing 30 to Pittsburgh in that contest, the Chargers have allowed 16.7 PPG in their last nine games and that’s resulted in a 6-3 ‘under’ mark.

This series has been dominated by the Chiefs, winners in the last nine encounters and even though the Week 1 matchup went ‘over’ the number, the ‘under’ has cashed in six of the previous eight between the pair. Make a note that Chargers QB Philip Rivers hasn’t had much success in his last four trips (0-4) to Arrowhead and the Bolts only scored 7, 3, 27 and 13 points in those games, all losses.

Road teams (2-12 SU) have struggled in the NFL midweek matchup this season and a lot of the results were blowouts. Only three of the games were decided by four points or less and the ‘under’ went 2-1 in those games. I believe this game will be played within that margin and I would lean to the ‘under’ (53 ½) here.

RECENT MEETINGS (Kansas City 9-0 SU, 8-1 ATS last nine; UNDER 6-3)

9/9/18 Kansas City 38-28 at Los Angeles (KC +3.5, 48)
12/16/17 Kansas City 30-13 vs. Los Angeles (KC -1, 47)
9/24/17 Kansas City 24-10 at Los Angeles (KC -3, 47.5)
1/1/17 Kansas City 37-27 at San Diego (KC -5.5, 45)
9/11/16 Kansas City 33-27 OT vs. San Diego (SD +6.5, 45.5)
12/13/15 Kansas City 10-3 vs. San Diego (KC -10.5, 44)
11/22/15 Kansas City 33-3 at San Diego (KC -3, 45)
12/28/14 Kansas City 19-7 vs. San Diego (KC -2.5, 42.5)
10/19/14 Kansas City 23-20 at San Diego (KC +3, 46)


NEXT WEEK'S NUMBERS POSTED

Westgate Vegas opens its advance lines for the following week on Tuesdays and Week 16 currently has the Chargers listed as a 5-point favorite against the Ravens, who will likely come into Carson with Lamar Jackson as their starting QB unless he struggles against Tampa Bay this week. The Chiefs will be back home in prime time as they visit playoff hopeful Seattle, which has been made an early 1-point home favorite.


Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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