New England Patriots (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date and Time: Sunday, December 7, 2014, 8:30 pm EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, Calif.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: NE -3/SD +3
Over/Under Total: 51
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The New England Patriots fell just a few plays short from taking down the one of the hottest teams in the NFC in Green Bay last weekend on the road, so this weeks task is to go on the road again to face one of the surging teams in the AFC, when the Patriots travel West to play the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium on NBCs Sunday Night Football in America.
Trailing by six points and knocking on the Packers doorstep, Patriots QB Tom Brady was sacked for a critical loss and then Stephen Gostkowski missed the ensuing field goal to seal the Pats loss last Sunday at Lambeau, 26-21. With little time to lick the wounds, now Brady and the Pats have to travel all the way to the other coast to take on the Chargers in a game that has suddenly turned into one that has major AFC playoff position and importance tied into it.
The game has become all about playoff position because, after losing three in a row going into their week 10 bye week, the Chargers have recovered in incredible fashion by winning three in a row including a last-second stunner on the road in Baltimore last week, 34-33. Trailingby six Philip Rivers drove the Chargers down the field without any timeouts and, thanks to a pass interference call in the end zone, scored the game-winning TD on a Rivers-to-Eddie Royal pass with just 38 second remaining on the clock.
The Chargers win combined with the Broncos win over Kansas City allowed the Bolts to leapfrog over the Chiefs in the AFC West standings and land right smack-dab into the middle of the AFC wild card hunt. With a date against the Patriots at home and momentum rolling on their side, you can expect the Bolts to bring everything they got left in the tank in front of the national primetime audience on Sunday night.
Of course, the reality of what happens on the field and what oddsmakers and bettors in the sportsbook expect to happen are two different things usually, and this week its no different. With the Patriots and Brady coming off a disappointing loss, oddsmakers are still forced to set the opening point spread for the Sunday night affair with New England as 3-point favorites on the road. The early bettors dont seem to care who is hot and who is not either, as most of the early money has come in on the Patriots that some sportsbooks have already moved the line up to minus -3.5 or -4 after less than 24 hours of it being up on the board.
The over/under total opened at 50.5 and it too has moved already after just a short time on the board, going upwards to 51 or 51.5 depending on where you look offshore or in Las Vegas.
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One week after watching Aaron Rodgers shred the much heralded Patriots secondary for 340-plus yards and two touchdowns, now the Pats defense will have to try and contain Rivers and the Chargers passing game. But the biggest difference between the two is that Rodgers did most of his damage after clearing the Pats pass rush and getting outside the pocket or out of harms way to keep the play alive. Rivers is no way near as mobile or quick on his feet, and the Chargers run game has struggled with injuries to Ryan Mathews earlier in the season and could struggle to get loose if they find themselves behind the chains on early downs.
Likewise, the Chargers secondary has had its issues containing strong passing games in the past and they really dont get much better than Brady and the Patriots. Part of the reason the Patriots surged in the midseason was behind the power running game of Jonas Gray, and now LaGarrette Blount, and in recent weeks they have sort of gotten away from that ground and pound. San Diegos biggest weakness on defense has been stopping the run (110 ypg 16th), so getting Gray and Blount enough carries could be key to the Pats getting back in the win column on Sunday.
Historically, the Patriots have held the upper hand in this matchup in recent years, winning two in a row and five of the last six game including a, 21-12, playoff game in late January in Foxborough. It should be noted though that the only game in that span that the Chargers won was in Qualcomm Stadium the following fall in September, 30-10, but of course that was the season Brady blew out his knee in the first game and was replace with Matt Casell. In 2010, the Pats last visit to Qualcomm turned into a 23-20 win by the Pats as mild 2.5-point underdogs. All told, the Patriots are 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS against the Chargers when you take it back 10 games, or all the way back to 1997 (2-2 both SU and ATS in Qualcomm).
However, the strongest betting trend of note is the fact that all four of the game played out in San Diego in the past 10 years have ended under the closing total. Those totals have been as low as 41 and as high as 48.5, so with the current total starting to approach 51 or 51.5 currently, trend bettors should be getting some good value if they want to take the under on Sunday.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im a little leery about all of the traveling the Patriots will have done for this game come Sunday. To Green Bay late on Sunday, back to New England and then back out to the West Coast for this week. Id say take the Pats because they dont usually lose to in a row, but any value on them at minus -3 will be long gone by Sunday as the number is already up to -4 and climbing. The best value for this game is likely going to be the under. Im hoping both teams have some tired legs and bodies from all the traveling from coast-to-coast, and am thinking it could end up like a 24-20 or 24-17. Im taking the under of 51 for this game.