San Diego Chargers (8-6 SU, 6-8 ATS) vs. San Francisco 49ers (7-7 SU, 6-7-1 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date and Time: Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 8:25PM EST
Where: Levis Stadium, Santa Clara, California
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD +1/SF -1
Over/Under Total: 41.5
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On Saturday, the San Diego Chargers take the trip up north to face the San Francisco 49ers in a must-win game for the Chargers. After falling again to the Broncos on Sunday, their playoff position is tenuous and another loss could make it nearly impossible to get into the postseason. For the 7-7 49ers, a postseason run is now out of the question, with San Francisco losing to Seattle on Sunday, eliminating them from the playoffs. Its a bitter pill to swallow for a team that has become accustomed to success in the last several seasons. It will be interesting to see how they react.
The Chargers didnt catch any breaks on the schedule, catching New England and Denver on consecutive weeks just as they were trying to make a playoff push. Its not that they lost, but how they lost that was a little discouraging heading into the final two games. Their defense hasnt been all that bad and is even outplaying the offense at this point. Against New England, the Chargers were shut out in the second-half. Then against Denver, they put up a measly ten points. And this is at home, where long stretches are going by without the Chargers offense getting on the board.
San Francisco looked to be doing well on Sunday, taking a halftime lead into the locker-room against Seattle. But like San Diego on Sunday, they couldnt get on the scoreboard in the second half. For the Chargers, they find themselves in a position they are usually in at this point in the season–scratching for a postseason spot. For the Niners, its a little different and you have to wonder how theyll play. After getting to at least the conference title game in the last 3 seasons, it has to feel strange to play games like these last two games of the regular season that just dont mean an awful lot.
Its one thing for a team to hit the skids. It happens, Not every team can be elite forever. But with the 49ers, the underlying reasons for a subpar 2014 may be more sinister. They certainly had their share of injuries and tough losses. But a Niners team that has always responded well to crisis in the last few years seemed to collapse when it came down to crunch-time this season. And it seems like theres a disconnect in the locker-room. Maybe not having the head coach that took them from the scrap-pile to 3 straight title games and a Super Bowl being locked into a longterm deal came home to roost. Maybe it was the unrelenting stream of injuries. OR perhaps it was just a big combo plate of badness. It just seemed that a good thing fell apart this season.
And while the SF resurgence occurred on Harbaughs watch, it looked like the meaty part of the learning curve caught up this season. When forcing your defense to do most of the heavy labor, it can always be a fine line between success and failure. And this Frisco offense is really a big mess. Just going off the names that populate this offense, youd think they would be able to do better than be 28th in scoring. Its truly an exasperating and disheartening situation.
Again, the Chargers have a decent excuse for scoring 24 points in two games, having just faced the cream of the AFC in New England and Denver. Still at home and in need of a positive result, it was a bad time for the offense to hit the skids. QB Philip Rivers went from Superman to just another quarterback the last few games, with just two TD throws and three picks. And just as the defense starting getting healthy again, the offense is now being dinged with injuries. RB Ryan Mathews, who looked good after returning, is now injured again and missed Sundays game and is listed as day-to-day. TE Ladarius Green was out with a concussion and is also day-to-day. Ditto for leading receiver Keenan Allen, who was really rounding into explosive form before hurting his ankle in Sundays loss to the Broncos. And making things worse, LB Donald Butler dislocated his elbow on Sunday and is out indefinitely.
San Francisco, unmercifully hit by the injury-bug this season, is still awfully banged-up. Their running game, the strength of their offense, is now hurt, with Frank Gore suffering a concussion on Sunday and Carlos Hyde suffering a back injury. Both are questionable for Sunday. And WR Stevie Johnson didnt play Sunday and is also questionable.
It may be simplistic to portray this game as a team that is still playing for the postseason against a team whose goals are less clear, but that gap in urgency just might resonate in this game. The Chargers, and especially Rivers, have responded well in high-urgency scenarios recently, despite the last two losses. And while one shouldnt expect the 49ers to just fold up their tents and mentally end their season early, it would be odd if they got their act together this week after losing 3 straight. And theyre only 3-3 in their new digs at Levis Stadium. I think the Chargers win.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the San Diego Chargers plus 1 point.