Chiefs vs. Chargers Odds & Picks: L.A. Can Cover Spread vs. Resting K.C. Team
Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Austin Ekeler
Chiefs vs. Chargers Odds
Thanks to their 14-1 record, the Chiefs have already locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
With their seeding set, they will hope to walk away from this game as healthy as possible — that’s why Patrick Mahomes will be resting while more starters such as Tyreek Hill and Clyde Edwards-Helaire have been ruled out.
At 6-9, the Chargers’ playoff hopes went out the door weeks ago. Rookie Justin Herbert provided a silver lining to the disappointing season, as he showed all the qualities of a franchise quarterback.
A win against the Chiefs will not change the playoff picture. However, winning four straight to end the season will provide momentum and optimism for the Chargers heading into the offseason.
With little on the line, both teams will look to exit Week 17 without making bad situations worse in terms of health. This might make for a game that is less entertaining, but the extra uncertainty means extra value. Let’s see if we can find where the edge lies.
Los Angeles Chargers
While all of the Chargers’ healthy players will be on the field, those with nagging injuries like Casey Hayward Jr., Joey Bosa and Bryan Bulaga have been ruled out. Fortunately, thanks to the Chiefs’ playoff position, they should rest even more players than the Chargers.
The good news is that the Chargers’ key ingredient, Herbert, is healthy and will be leading the offense.
Herbert has already claimed the crown of most passing touchdowns by a rookie and sits fourth in passing yards. He should vault to second in yards, as he needs only 18 more, but leaping to first would take a Herculean 341-yard effort.
Fortunately for Herbert, Chiefs star defensive linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark should be high on Kansas City’s rest priority. If Jones and Clark do sit out, the Chiefs will be missing 48% of their total pressures this season per Pro Football Reference. This should provide a huge relief to the Chargers’ offensive line as they rank fourth-worst in pressure rate allowed.
Defensively, playing against Chad Henne instead of Mahomes is all any team can want against Kansas City. However, with an injury-riddled secondary and Bosa out, stopping the backup quarterback should not be a job overlooked.
Kansas City Chiefs
With the top seed locked up, a very different Kansas City team will take the field. While Reid has only officially announced Mahomes will rest, more key players could be limited: Travis Kelce, Jones, Clark and/or Tyrann Mathieu.
In addition to the resting/limited players, injuries will keep Hill, Edwards-Helaire, Mike Remmers and Sammy Watkins from playing.
Despite being without several of their best skill position players, Reid could still make something work with what remains. The only games we’ve seen without Mahomes took place last season, but Matt Moore led the offense to 25 points per game behind a quarterback rating of 105.5.
Behind their new backup quarterback in Henne, the Chiefs will hope to be equally productive.
In terms of receivers, going from Hill and Watkins to Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman is obviously a major step down, but the skillsets match so fewer adjustments to the game plan are needed.
The player they would miss most is Kelce at tight end — his ability to get open and find openings in the middle of the field makes him the best in the league. Downgrading to a backup at tight end will be a significant drop-off.
Defensively, stopping the Chargers attack will be a whole team effort. During L.A.’s three-game win streak, no receiver has averaged more than 50 yards, and the five passing touchdowns they’ve scored have gone to four different players.
The Chiefs’ coverage unit has been surprisingly good all year, ranking second in interceptions. We’ll see how they can hold up with a weaker pass rush if Jones and Clark are held out to rest.
In a game with little on the line, more players are likely to be held out for health reasons than usual. For the Chargers, this will focus on preventing nagging injuries from getting serious. For the Chiefs, this will mean both being careful with nagging injuries and resting healthy players to prevent new injuries.
Despite Herbert frequently being under duress, he produced one of the best statistical seasons for a rookie quarterback. Against the Chiefs, if Jones and Clark are ultimately held out or even limited, Herbert may have his first chance to throw cleanly from the pocket.
With a set of backups running the skill positions on offense, Kansas City won’t be able to keep up with L.A.’s passing attack.
Back Herbert to lead the Chargers to a fourth straight win and some offseason optimism.
Pick: Chargers -3.5 (to -5.5)