San Diego Chargers vs. Buffalo Bills Preview and Pick – Sunday, October 19th, 2008

San Diego Chargers (3-3) PK, 44 at Buffalo Bills (4-1), 1 pm Eastern Sunday, CBS
by Zman of

The San Diego Chargers looked like they regained some of their swagger with a beat-down of the New England Patriots Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills are off to a somewhat surprising 4-1 start to this season, and are coming off a bye week.

Thus is the situation as a couple of AFL originals meet in a key AFC inter-divisional game Sunday afternoon in Buffalo.

Most NFL wagering outlets opened this game as a pick ’em, with a total of 46 . And while the spread has remained steady, the total has dropped by as much as two points, to 44 , at most football sportsbooks.

The Chargers are 3-3 so far this season, but easily could be 5-1, after losing their first two games in the waning moments. And even in a 17-10 loss at Miami, SD was a failed 4th & goal from the one away from a tie game in the fourth quarter.

Sunday night, the Bolts pounded the Brady-less Patriots 30-10, and at 3-3, sit in second place in the AFC West, a game back of the division-leading Denver Broncos.

Meanwhile, Buffalo won its first four games of this season over Seattle, Jacksonville, Oakland and St. Louis, but got bopped out in Arizona 41-17 back on Oct. 5. Nonetheless, the Bills find themselves atop what is now a wide-open AFC East at 4-1, a game clear of the Pats and the Jets.

San Diego is 3-2-1 against the spread this season, and shoulda won & covered at Denver. Buffalo has been even better to its financial backers, going 4-1 vs. the numbers this season.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers isn’t just one of the rising stars at his position; he’s now one of the best in the league. So far this season, the former NC Stater has completed 62% of his passes for a 9.0 yards-per-attempt average, which is great, and a 14/4 TD/INT ratio.

On the other side of this QB match-up, Trent Edwards has been coming along for the Bills, hitting on 66% of his throws this season for a 7.8 YPA average and a 4/2 TD/INT ratio. But the former Stanford slinger suffered a concussion in Buffalo’s loss at Arizona. He did, however, have the advantage of having last weekend off, and is listed as probable for Sunday’s game.

San Diego ranks 12th in the league this season in total offense at 338 TYPG, just 23rd in rushing at 99 YPG but 1st in scoring at 30 PPG. On the other side of the ball, without LB Shawne Merriman, who’s out for the season with a knee injury, the Chargers rank just 28th in total defense at 366 YPG, 17th vs. the run at 112 YPG, and 19th in points allowed at 23 PPG.

Buffalo, meanwhile, ranks 18th in total offense at 313 YPG, 24th in rushing at 98 YPG, 10th in scoring at 25 PPG, 9th in total defense at 299 YPG, 18th vs. the run at 114 YPG, and 14th in points allowed at 21 PPG.

These two teams last met in December of 2006, when the Chargers went into Rich Stadium and came away with a 24-21 victory. Tomlinson ran for 178 yards and a couple of touchdowns, and SD held the Bills to 63 yards on the ground.

These two teams have played one common opponent so far this season. Buffalo needed a minor miracle to beat Oakland 24-23 at home three weeks ago, while the Chargers had to rally themselves from a 15-3 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Raiders 28-18 the following week in Oakland.

The totals are 4-2 in Chargers games this season, which are averaging a healthy 53 total points, while the O/Us are 4-1 in Bills games, which are averaging 46 points.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at ranks San Diego 13th at 23.5, Buffalo 23rd at 18.8. Sagarin’s current NFL home-field advantage figure is 3.5.

Zman’s Pick: Bills should win easy here.