Pick LA Chargers -3 vs KC Chiefs
Date/Time: Sunday September 9, 3: PM EST
Where: Stub Hub Center, Carson, Ca
by Keith Allen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LA -3 (-125 / KC + 3 (+105) at 5dimes
Over/Under Total: 47
Kansas City will hit the road to open the 2018 campaign with an AFC clash out west against the Chargers in Los Angeles. Both teams have high hopes and realistic expectations of winning the division and possibly making a super bowl run. Last year Los Angeles started the season 0-4 including 3 losses by less than a field goal and then went 9-3 including going 6-1 in the final 7 games to close out the season. Unfortunately, the loss in week 15 was a 30-13 drubbing at the hands of the Chiefs and would be the loss that would keep the Chargers out of the playoffs. Coach Anthony Lynn will look to build on his initial head coaching season and get his team over the hump and into the playoffs in 2018.
The Chiefs’ season ended when they took a bad loss in wild card round of the playoffs, losing to the Titans 22-21 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs season was basically opposite of the Chargers, starting off with 5 wins, then going 1-6 to sit at 6-6 before winning their final 4 games to lock up the division title. KC’s offense was hitting on all cylinders in ’17, finishing 6th in points scored and 2nd in yards per play. The D played well down the stretch but struggled to generate a pass rush all season and was not the same imposing unit that generally patrols Arrowhead.
Andy Reid decided it was time to move on from safe and reliable Alex Smith and will give the keys to the car to gun-slinger Patrick Mahomes. And the car is a turbo charged sports cars with all the bells and whistles. Mahomes will be throwing to Tyreek Hill – maybe the fastest receiver in the league, Travis Kelce – the best tight end in the league not called Gronk and Sammy Watkins – former #4 overall pick that has averaged 16 yards per catch in his 4 NFL seasons. Coupled with 2017 rushing leader Kareem Hunt leading the backfield and the Chiefs may have the NFL’s most potent offense. It’s all up to the QB. Mahomes has a big arm and has no fear to use it. On the flip side, he has a history of throwing interceptions and if he can minimize the turnovers this offense will put lots of points on the board.
Mahomes first test in ’18 will be a very challenging Chargers D. This defense is one of the best pass defenses in the league, finishing last season 6th in passing yards against and 5th in sacks. Bookend pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are probably the best combo of rushers in the league. They will get after Mahomes on opening day and should be able to give their secondary that produced 18 interceptions last year a chance to get one or two in the opener. The rushing defense is the weakness of the Chargers as they were last in the league in yards per attempt. The Chargers will look to get a lead in games this year to make teams one dimensional and allow their pass rushers to hunt. That will be a key to this game for the Chargers to take care of business against the Chiefs.
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The Chargers offense is a strong unit that will be able to go toe-to-toe with anyone including the Chiefs in week 1. Rivers enters his 15th NFL season at 9th on the list of career passing yards including over 4500 yards last year. Keenan Allen is one of the top receivers in the league and is paired with speedster Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and 2016 first round pick Mike Williams. Promising tight end Hunter Henry is already on the shelf for 2018 with a torn ACL so the Bolts will have to fill that weakness, possibly by bringing back the ageless Antonio Gates. Melvin Gordon is the workhorse back and finished 7th in the league in rushing despite averaging less than 4 yards per carry.
KC’s defense will have their hands full in Los Angeles. The Chiefs finished 2017 26th in yards per play allowed, and were equally generous against both the pass and run. Safety Eric Berry will return from his Achilles injury, but top cornerback Marcus Peters was traded to the Rams due to locker room issues. Pass rush was the glaring weakness for KC last year, especially in the second half of the year. The team got to opposing QBs only 31 times on the season led by Justin Houston. Houston has not eclipsed 10 sacks in any of the last 3 seasons, and got home only twice in the second half of last year. KC’s D will struggle against averaged offenses this year, and will struggle a lot against the Chargers in week 1.
I like the Chargers to win and cover the number in the opener. Yes, despite the fact I have Chiefs over 8 wins on the season. This spread has moved up from 3 to around 3½ which makes it much less attractive, but I believe the Chiefs defense will not be ready for this week 1 challenge. (Note that 5Dimes will let you buy up to -3 with the Chargers at -125). Los Angeles will make KC defend the whole field and I don’t think they will be up to this challenge. Mahomes should be able to put some points on the board, but I think LA’s pass defense will make some plays and be the difference in the game.
My favorite play in this contest would be Over 47. I think this is a shoot-out from the opening kick and the offenses dominate the day. I don’t see KC stopping Rivers, and the Chiefs offense has too many weapons to keep off the scoreboard. Play the Chargers -3½ (even money) or -3 (-125) and Over 47.