Chargers vs. Falcons Odds & Picks: Keep Fading Anthony Lynn
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Calvin Ridley
Chargers vs. Falcons Odds
The Los Angeles Chargers are in a full-fledged free fall.
They’ve lost six out of their last seven games and now sit at 3-9, well removed from contention in the AFC playoff race. Unfortunately for the Chargers, there’s still football to be played.
On Sunday they’ll look to rebound from last week’s 45-0 blowout loss to the Patriots, welcoming the Falcons in what projects to be a close game.
Can the Chargers stop the bleeding and find a way to win a close game? Or will their free fall under head coach Anthony Lynn continue? Let’s find out.
The Falcons have improved under interim head coach Raheem Morris. After starting 0-5 under Dan Quinn, the Falcons are 4-3 since his firing — and two of those three losses have come at the hands of the 10-2 Saints, who are the cream of the crop in the NFC.
Atlanta’s biggest improvement has been its defense, which has gone from 30th in expected points per play (0.174) and 29th in defensive success rate (51.2%) to sixth in expected points added per play (-0.074) and defensive success rate (42.3%) since Morris took over in Week 6.
The Falcons have gone from giving up 32.2 points and 391 yards per game under Quinn to giving up 20.14 points and 356 yards per game under Morris. If you extrapolate that to a full season, the Falcons would rank fourth in points allowed and 17th in yards, a huge improvement from how they’ve performed under Quinn.
Unfortunately, the Falcons will be without safety Ricardo Allen, so the offense will have to do more than they did last week against the Saints.
Atlanta’s offense has struggled in the red zone, converting only 50% of its 44 trips inside the 20-yard line. Still, I believe these are two teams headed in opposite directions, and we should see an improvement in the Falcons’ offensive output against a Chargers defense that’s bleeding points to everyone.
Since the firing of Quinn, the Falcons have put up 40, 22, 25, 34 and 43 points in their non-Saints games, so we should expect the Falcons to score into the high-20s on Sunday.
Julio Jones will miss his fourth game of the season with a hamstring injury, and while we’ve seen dips in Matt Ryan’s competition percentage, touchdown rate and quarterback rating when Jones is out of the lineup, the Falcons did defeat the Raiders 43-6 without his services.
Even without Jones, the cupboard is far from bare. Calvin Ridley actually leads the team in targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns and comes off a game in which he had five receptions for 108 yards. And wide receiver Russell Gage and tight end Hayden Hurst are third and fourth in receptions and yards, so this unit should be fine.
Interestingly enough, the Falcons have played the Saints in two out of the last three weeks and they’ve played like one of the best defenses in football. If you remove those games from their statistical sample, the Falcons go from 21st in passing success rate (47%) to 10th (50%).
The Falcons are just 25th in rushing yards per game (100.7) but this is a game in which Todd Gurley may potentially turn back the clock against a struggling Chargers run defense.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have given up 27 or more points in nine straight games and are coming off their worst loss in franchise history: A 45-0 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots, in which Cam Newton completed 12-of-19 passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Week 13 marked the Chargers’ first home shutout since 1988. The Chargers are 30th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, 18th in offense and 26th in defense.
Justin Herbert finally hit the rookie wall after an electrifying start to his first season. He completed just 26-of-53 passes for 209 yards — 3.9 yards per attempt — with zero touchdowns, two interceptions and a 9.2 mark in ESPN’s QBR against the Patriots.
It was Herbert’s worst start of the season and his performance was so abysmal that he’s dropped from ninth in DVOA to 19th in one week. We’ve also since seen his odds for Offensive Rookie of the Year drop from -450 to -260, leaving the door ajar for Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Besides the misstep against a Bill Belichick-led defense, Herbert is still in the midst of a 3,224-yard, 23-touchdown season and is tied with Newton and Andrew Luck for the most 300-yard passing games as a rookie, and this could be the week in which he breaks the record.
Unfortunately, the rest of his team is doing him no favors.
They’ve struggled particularly on special teams, ranking dead last in DVOA. According to Football Outsiders, the Chargers special teams unit is the second-worst in NFL history — even worse than the 2010 Chargers, whose special teams unit was so bad that they missed the playoffs despite finishing first in both yards and yards allowed.
Last Sunday the Chargers allowed a punt return and a blocked field goal to be returned for touchdowns in the loss to the Patriots.
The Patriots lined up to punt 5 times in this game. The #Chargers had the wrong number of players on the field for 3 of those plays. On one series, they lined for a punt with 12, got flagged and gave up the first down, then lined up with 10 four snaps later. pic.twitter.com/DOum0vObiZ
— Daniel Popper (@danielrpopper) December 7, 2020
The Chargers defense ranks 26th in defensive efficiency, 20th against the pass and 29th against the run. Stopping opposing rushing attacks continues to plague this unit, as they give up 124.2 yards per game with a 51% success rate.
Their defensive pass metrics rate out better than their rushing metrics, however, this unit gave up 28 points to the Joe Flacco-led New York Jets.
The Chargers will still be without linebacker Denzel Perryman on Sunday.
Wise guys will likely line up to take +3 or +3.5 on the Chargers if and when the lines move, and honestly, I don’t care. Many of these same “sharps” have fallen victim to trying to catch a falling knife by betting the Eagles, who are just 4-8 against the spread this season.
I can’t stress this enough: You’re lighting money on fire by backing a Lynn-coached team at this point. Last week, I faded the Chargers and I’m going back to the well again.
Why wouldn’t I?
The Chargers have not beaten a team with more than two wins — their three victories have come against the Jets (0-12), Jaguars (1-11) and Bengals (2-9) in Joe Burrow’s first start of his career. Those teams have a combined record of 3-32 with a point differential of -345, and those games were dog fights in which the Chargers had legitimate chances of losing.
Their season is over, yet the Chargers remain committed to Lynn, who is now 29-31 during his tenure and an abysmal 8-20 since the start of 2019. Even more troubling, the Chargers are 4-16 in one-score games since the beginning of 2019, by far the worst in the NFL.
With the Falcons flipping between underdogs and favorites throughout the week, we could be looking at another close game. The Chargers have played the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Saints tough, but since then, they’ve been a disaster.
The Falcons, on the other hand, have improved under Morris and have continued to fight this season. Despite a sensational rookie season from Herbert, the Chargers appeared to have quit on Lynn, who is the epitome of gross incompetence.
Overall, this is more of a fade of Lynn and the Chargers than a play on the Falcons. Until the Chargers replace Lynn, I’ll be fading this Chargers team — even against a Falcons team that’s missing Jones.
Pick: Falcons +1