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Chiefs vs. Chargers Odds, Picks, Predictions: How We’re Betting Thursday Night Football Spread and Over/Under

Chiefs vs. Chargers Odds, Picks, Predictions: How We’re Betting Thursday Night Football Spread and Over/Under article feature image
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David Eulitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Michael Danna #51 of the Kansas City Chiefs sacks Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers

Chiefs vs. Chargers Odds, Picks, Predictions

Pick
Under 54
Lean Chiefs -3

Lean Under

Editor’s note: The over/under has been bet up to 54 points as of 5 p.m. ET, meaning the under is officially in play based on our expert’s conditions — regardless of of Derwin James’ status.

Sean Koerner: The best way to attack this game is on the total. The Chiefs offense hasn’t been as explosive this season, thanks to defenses playing more two-high safeties, essentially forcing Patrick Mahomes into throwing the ball underneath. Last week, the Raiders refused to go away from their one-high shell tendencies (Las Vegas plays it at the highest rate in the league) and stayed in a one-high shell at the fourth-highest rate for Week 14. The Chiefs took advantage and dropped 48 points on them.

The Chargers play two-high shell at the third-highest rate, and their defense is already designed to frustrate a quarterback like Mahomes. They are a team that essentially allows the other team to run the ball on them (rank 32nd in DVOA against the run). Therefore, we will either see the Chiefs stick with a more run-heavy, conservative game plan or play into the strengths of the Chargers defense by taking deep shots. The Chargers are excellent at taking away the deep ball and have allowed the second-lowest QB rating (56.6) to pass attempts 20+ yards down field. Either scenario will only play into the under, and that’s why I see that as the best betting angle for this divisional matchup.

At time of writing, the total sits at 52.5-53.5, with 75% of the action coming in on the over (check real-time public betting data here). The key numbers in this range are 50, 51, 54 and 55. Therefore, I’m willing to wait to bet this under if and/or when:

(1) The heavy action on the over pushes the total to at least 54; or

(2) If Derwin James is ruled active and the total is still at 52.5.

If both James and Samuel are ruled out and the total is at 52 or lower, though, I will likely stay away. You can read my entire breakdown of this matchup here.

Pick if Derwin James is active: Under 52.5
Pick if total rises: Under 54 (or better)
Pick if neither happens: Pass


Lean Chiefs -3

Brandon Anderson: The Chargers are one of the weird teams right out of the gate this week, and it feels like bad news that they have so many question marks on a short week. Star rookie LT Rashawn Slater is out and the right side of the offensive line is already a mess, so that’s a big problem against this renewed Chiefs defense. Of course, Chris Jones has been at the heart of that Kansas City revival and he’s on the COVID list too, so that’s a particularly huge miss in this game.

But the problems don’t stop there for L.A. Austin Ekeler looks unlikely with a high-ankle sprain. Keenan Allen is back, but Mike Williams and Jared Cook could be limited or out. On defense, Derwin James and Asante Samuel Jr. are both game-time decisions. That’s a lot of big names potentially missing on a short week against a great team that sure looks like it might be back again.

The Chargers upset the Chiefs earlier this season in the game that seemed to put Kansas City’s offense into its funk, with every team copying Brandon Staley’s two-deep safety defense and taking away the Chiefs’ deep ball. But this is a very different Chiefs team than the one the Chargers beat.

Kansas City boasts one of the league’s finest defenses now, by any available metric really. The Chiefs rank in the top three in EPA defensively over the past six weeks at RBSDM, top five against both the pass and the run, and their D ranks seventh in weighted DVOA at Football Outsiders. The Chiefs are also running the ball well now — better than they’re passing it, really. They rank third in the NFL in EPA per rush the last six weeks.

I picked the Chargers to upset the Chiefs in the first matchup this season because I really liked the matchup. But this new-look Chiefs team is a different matchup entirely. Their pass rush should get at Justin Herbert, especially with the Chargers’ O-line issues, and Kansas City’s running attack should gash this terrible L.A. run defense. Justin Herbert might well be playing better than Patrick Mahomes right now, but the rest of the Chiefs are playing far better than the rest of the Chargers. Don’t overlook the special teams either, where the Chiefs are one of the league’s finest and L.A. is a disaster.

Kansas City had won 12 of 13 against the Chargers before losing the last two. Mahomes is 11-2-1 (85%) against the spread (ATS) lifetime when he’s not favored by more than three points, dominating opponents when the line doesn’t give him enough credit. L.A. is also getting credit for a home-field advantage here, when the reality is that there will likely be more Chiefs fans in the SoFi Stadium stands on Thursday night.

Thursday night unders are 10-4 on the season, and this is a high line. With this Chiefs defensive renaissance and all the potentially missing L.A. players on offense — plus the division and path to the AFC 1-seed on the line — I’m expecting a gritty low-scoring game.

I’d love this spot for the Chiefs and bet the -3 if not for Chris Jones almost certainly being out. I wouldn’t play this past -3.

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