Green Bay Packers -5.5 (7-0, 5-2 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers + 5.5 (4-3, 2-5 ATS), NFL Week 9, 4:15 pm ET, Qualcomm Stadium, FOX
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB -5.5/SD +5.5
Over/Under Total: 51
It is hard to believe that the NFL season is half over but that is exactly where we sit and one of the best match-ups in Week 9 takes place in San Diego as the Packers make the trip west to take on the Chargers. The Pack is coming off a bye and looking to stay undefeated while the Chargers are reeling after an unprobable overtime loss on Monday Night Football. A few weeks back, San Diego looked to be the best chance to hand Green Bay it’s first loss but injuries and a likely lack of confidence now stand against the Chargers along with the Packers players. The game from Qualcomm Stadium kicks off in the second slate of games on Fox.
The earliest lines came out with the Packers as 3.5 favorites but a lot of motion has been associated with the line after the late finish on Monday night and most online betting sites have the Chargers as 5.5 or 6 point underdogs as of Tuesday. Money lines are available at some offshore sportsbooks with Green Bay around -250 with San Diego in the +210 range with the over/under total most commonly at 51.
GB looks to be on the right track to return to the Superbowl but a closer look at their games reveals a team that could be vulnerable to an upset. The Packers cruised by Denver and St. Louis but won the other five games by an average of 8.5 points. That is good, but it isn’t quite as dominant as some would make it out to be considering the Packers have faced just the 21st most difficult schedule to this point. The Pack should be motivated to stay on top of things as the NFC North is far from decided with Detroit lurking just one win behind with two meetings ahead for the teams.
San Diego avoided the slow start that has frustrated fans in recent years but the losses have crept in now as the Chargers are facing quality competition. Wins against Miami, Minnesota and Denverwereno surprise but San Diego has stumbled against New England and the New York Jets and now face the consensus best team in the NFL. A win reinvigorates the Chargers as AFC Championship contenders and would ensure they lose no ground in a AFC West race that has them tied with Kansas City and Oakland at 4-3.
The Packers possess one of the best offenses in the league with top-4 marks in passing and total yards per game and lead the NFLat 32.9 points per game. The run game hasn’t kept pace with the passing but it has hardly been necessary and the Pack was able to gain a couple of first downs to seal their last win againt the Vikings. The Packers defense ranks near the bottom in passing and total yards allowed, but those stats are a bit skewed as teams have had to pass often to stay with the scoring pace of Green Bay. There is no shortage of playmakers on the defense and the Packers enter the week ninth in points allowed at just over 20 a contest.
Aaron Rodgers is making Brett Favre a distant memory with each game played as the MVP candidate is hitting on over 71% of his passes while averaging nearly 340 yards per game. Rodgers has thrown 20 touchdown passes against just three interceptions and can always make the most of a broken play with his feet. James Starks and Ryan Grant are servicable runners but have accounted for only one touchdown between them and the Packers have recorded just five rushing scores in seven games. The receivers are top notch however with Greg Jennings leading the team in catches, yards and touchdowns and all three of the Packers top wideouts (Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones) are averaging over 16 yards per catch.
The Chargers offense is nothing to sneeze at with top-6 ranks in both passing but have had some trouble scoring with just the 15th best scoring average of 23 points per game. San Diego would have an advantage at the running back position but it is unclear at this point who will play come Sunday. Ryan Mathews left the Kansas City game with a groing injury and Mike Tolbert missed week 8 with a hamstring issue. Additionally, third string back Curtis Brinkley is questionable with a concussion, leaving severe depth concerns heading into the weekend. The defense has been solid through the year, especially the secondary, with the Chargers ranked 4th in pass yards allowed and 6th in total yards allowed while giving up 22.7 points per game. That seconday will be tested all night and will have to perform at a very high level to slow down Rodgers and Co.
Philip Rivers has played poorly this year when compared with recent seasons and likely had one of the worst moments of his career on Monday Night as his fumble stands as the lasting image from a loss that easily could have gone the other way. Rivers has just seven touchdowns with eleven interceptions entering the week and will need a very short memory to shake the error against the Chiefs. Ryan Mathews playing status is up in the air but the versatile running back has been the best player on the field for San Diego, leading the team in rushing yards and receptions. Mike Tolbert is a bruising runerbut is anequally good pass receiver and enters the week second on the reception list for the team while leading with five total touchdown. Vincent Jackson is the best deep threat for Rivers but may draw the tough match-up with Charles Woodson. Antonio Gates looks to be back in form after missing three games with nine catches for 127 yards in the past two games and could be the best pass option as Green Bay struggles to cover the middle of the field.
After the bye week, Green Bay is pretty healthy with Frank Zombo and Sam Shields listed as probable on the defensive side with OL Chad Clifton still a few weeks away from playing as he recovers from a serious hamstring injury. San Diego is in good shape overall but the running back situation is very fluid and needs to be watched through the week. Indications are that Tolbert should be a go but Mathews status is questionable at this point and there are nothing but question marks after Tolbert if Mathews and Brinkley are out.
The Packers have performed well on the road, going 6-2 against the spread in their last eight away games but San Diego likes the role of the home dog, going 5-0 ATS in the last five such games. The under has hit 11 of the last 15 times the Packers have been visitors with San Diego paying the under in each of the last seven games at Qualcomm. Green Bay is 4-0 ATS in the last four between these teams. The Packers remain at the top of the Sagarin ratings witha 31.60 with the Chargers at 20.34, good for 17th.
Evergreen’s pick to cover the point spread: I’d hold off betting this one until later in the week, or at least until the injury status of Mathews is clear. Green Bay won’t likely run the table but they will stay motivated as long as Detroit is close so there should be no letdown, especially coming off a bye. It’s a long trip to the West Coast, but the offense hasn’t missed a beat all year and should put up enough points to cover up for a defense that will give up it’s share this week. Look for the under trend to come to an end with the Pack winning and covering, 34-24.
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