Los Angeles Chargers -2.5 @ Detroit Lions (-110) – 1 Unit
Last week, I took the Indianapolis Colts to cover a touchdown in LA largely because of the Chargers poor home record over the past few seasons. The soccer stadium they play in simply does not afford them much if any home field advantage.
Conversely, the Chargers have been the best team against the spread on the road since moving to LA to start the 2017 season, the same year Anthony Lynn took over as Head Coach.
The Bolts are 12-3-1 ATS on the road under Lynn in the regular season, posting a +4.7 ATS margin. I like for them to improve on that mark in Detroit this Sunday. Matt Patricia & Co. have not exactly inspired a raucous atmosphere at Ford Field. His Lions are 3-5 ATS during his tenure, and have lost their last 3 home games in blowout fashion.
It doesn’t help team morale when your Head Coach is on the injury report. Throughout the preseason and week 1, there has been a lifelessness on the Lions sideline. Matt Patricia glowers over his team with a walking boot, a pencil and a laminate playsheet. Their poor team spirit may well have been exacerbated by blowing an 18-point lead in the final 10 minutes of their season opener. Despite expanding their lead to start the 4th quarter, the Lions settled for a gut wrenching 70-minute tie against the lowly Arizona Cardinals.
The Lions would not be the first team to fail to respond to a tie. Since 1997, teams coming off of a tie when they play the next week are 3-13 SU and 4-12 ATS. Worse, when a favorite endures a tie, those teams are just 1-7 SU & 1-7 ATS in the following week.
The trend strikes me as intuitive. Ties are naturally deflating, especially when teams expect to win. Not only have they played the maximum amount of minutes – their sole reward was a big smooch from a sibling.
Were it not for these trends, I would still heavily lean toward the Chargers.
LAC reiterated their quality in week 1. The Chargers posted an excellent 7.4 yards per play on offense vs. the Colts. They would have won easier were it not for two extremely costly 2nd Half turnovers. Philip Rivers fell victim to a spectacular one handed interception by the Colts’ Malik Hooker in the end zone. Then, Desmond King gave the Colts a chance with a muffed punt in the 4th quarter.
Except for their offensive line, LAC grades out as excellent across the board by observes such as Pro Football Focus. The team did not miss a beat without holdout Melvin Gordon, as backup RB Austin Ekler looked every bit the part in week 1, scoring two long touchdowns.
Currently, I have the Bolts rated 6 to 6.5 points better than the Lions. Ford Field optimistically offers a 3-point Home Field Advantage, so a generous line would be Chargers by 3. As I explained here, betting at -2.5 when the real line should be -3 is a 55% proposition. Like I did last week, I’m taking a swing with the team from LA to win by a field goal on the road.
2nd Half to be Higher Scoring Half (-106) – .25 Units
Both these teams will feel some effect of playing overtime games last week. While the Chargers were able to get out of dodge after 1 successful drive, the Lions played the maximum amount of football as they squeaked to a tie in the desert. The requisite fatigue from these teams prior games will primarily show up on defense. For some reason, players feel the effects of fatigue less when galivating towards the end zone.
The Lions defense has already displayed the ability to wear down, when they lost all punch in the 4th quarter of their first game. As local beat writers detailed, Lions DC, Paul Pasqualoni did not become less aggressive late in their game vs. the Cardinals. Rather, the Lions players just stopped executing to the same degree and failed to pressure on Kyle Murray effectively on the final five possessions of the game.
The Chargers were the 6th highest scoring team in 2nd halves last year. The Lions were 27th in the league at Points Allowed in 2nd halves. And the Chargers weren’t much better at 26th.
Total Under 48 Points – .1 Units
Every new offensive coordinator the Lions have hired since they drafted Matthew Stafford has proclaimed their intention to taking less of Stafford’s plate by implementing a strong running game. Against these Chargers, new OC Darrell Bevell may have a golden opportunity to do just that.
The Chargers glaring weakness recently has been their rush defense. After the Patriots gutted them up the middle in their AFC Division game last year, the Colts followed suit, rushing for a league high 203 yards against them in week 1. If the Lions want to get off the snide Sunday with a win, they will likely need to do so by keeping Philip Rivers and company on the sideline. Look for them to employ a heavy dose of Kerryon Johnson to try and dominate time of possession.
The last 5 Lions home games have gone under the total. Detroit has failed to score more than 20 points in any of those games.
The Under is 9-6 in Chargers Road games since Anthony Lynn took over. They have held their opponents Under 20 in 5 of their last 9 road games.