Chiefs at Chargers Thursday Night Preview

WHICH BAD TEAM SHOULD YOU BET ON IN CHIEFS/CHARGERS PRIME TIME BATTLE?

This week's Thursday Night matchup on the NFL Network isn't exactly a dream showdown for fans or sports bettors. The visiting Kansas City Chiefs have played like they're already tanking to try and get next year's #1 draft pick. The host San Diego Chargers have a losing record despite playing the easiest schedule in the league! Who should you bet on in Vegas?!

Well, we'll crunch some numbers for you here to see if we can find some value. Maybe the total will offer up something that too many have overlooked. Maybe you should just keep betting against the Chiefs until they cover again give that their two most recent games sandwiched a bye week, yet still missed Vegas expectations by 23 and 11 points (at Tampa Bay, vs. Oakland).

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS at SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (8:20 p.m. on NFL NETWORK)
Las Vegas Spread: San Diego by 8, total of 42.5

San Diego is still getting respect in the line even though they're not playing well at all. They lost last week in Cleveland as field goal favorites. That came after a bye rest break that should have enabled them to play at a peak level. Before the bye, they blew a lucky second half lead and got destroyed in crunch time by Denver. So, BOTH teams are playing well below market expectations lately. The most notable thing about that pointspread is that it falls in the basic strategy teaser window for two-teamers. You can move San Diego down from -8 to -2 and cross both the three and the seven. If Kansas City really is trying to lose out to get the #1 draft pick, that's about as good a scenario as you can hope for. Would Kansas City tank a divisional rivalry game? Tough to assume it's a certainty...yet the team played very poorly last week at home against the even more hated Raiders.

WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)
Kansas City: 1-6 (24th ranked schedule)
San Diego: 3-4 (32nd ranked schedule)

Wow...Kansas City has a horrible record despite playing a below average schedule. We mentioned at the top that San Diego has a losing record while playing the easiest schedule in the league. Give them both the same schedule and they might have the same record! Probably one of the biggest unreported stories of the 2012 season has been the hidden collapse of the Chargers. They haven't been on national TV much, so that poor combination hasn't caught fire with the media. And, East Coast bias will have the media looking at disappointments like the Jets, Falcons, and even Cowboys (in the NFC East) before heading west to the Chargers.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
Kansas City: -18
San Diego: -2

Well, either the Chiefs are tanking or they're the most incompetent team of the modern era. How can you be -18 in turnovers through just seven games against an easy schedule?! It is possible that this is incompetence given head coach Romeo Crennel and an offense that doesn't seem to have much of a clue. The Chargers grade out poorly too given how easy their schedule has been. Both of these teams play sloppy football, in a year where there's a lot of that going around in the AFC.

OFFENSIVE STATS
Kansas City: 367.3 yards-per-game on 5.2 yards-per-play
San Diego: 320.9 yards-per-game on 5.0 yards-per-play

A number in the low 5's is poor this year for yards-per-play. Good offenses are putting up better numbers than that. Kansas City has an inflated yards-per-game number because they've faced a lot of garbage time prevents after falling behind so often. You should think of both of these offenses as bad after you adjust for strength of schedule. Perhaps the big lesson today is that you should look to be fading San Diego for the rest of the season. Against any opponent who knows what it's doing, the Chargers are going to be in trouble on the field at a time where Vegas has been slow to adjust to their struggles.

DEFENSIVE STATS
Kansas City: 348.7 yards-per-game on 6.1 yards-per-play
San Diego: 326.6 yards-per-game on 5.4 yards-per-play

It's been easy for most teams to move the ball on Kansas City (though Baltimore had inexplicable trouble). San Diego's held its own defensively, though it's come against the league's softest schedule. They obviously couldn't do much to stop Denver when that Monday Night game was getting away from them a couple of weeks ago. Clearly San Diego wins the stat preview...which is why they're laying this many points at home. Let's see if there are any hints in recent boxscores about what to expect tonight.

LAST WEEK'S BOXES

OAKLAND 26, KANSAS CITY 16
Total Yardage: Oakland 344, Kansas City 299
Rushing Yards: Oakland 135, Kansas City 102
Passing Stats: Oakland 14-28-1-209, Kansas City 22-34-2-197
Turnovers: Oakland 1, Kansas City 4
Third Downs: Oakland 17%, Kansas City 31%
Vegas Line: Kansas City by 1.5, total of 46

It's not like that's a debacle. But, we're talking about a huge rivalry HOME game that came after a bye week. This should be PEAK PERFORMANCE for Kansas City, yet they still got outgained, outplayed, and committed way too many turnovers. Exhibit A in the tanking discussion was the no-show at Tampa Bay. Exhibit B sure makes a compelling case because this was the best lineup of intangibles that the Chiefs could ever hope for.

CLEVELAND 7, SAN DIEGO 6
Total Yardage: San Diego 265, Cleveland 250
Rushing Yards: San Diego 117, Cleveland 133
Passing Stats: San Diego 18-34-0-148, Cleveland 11-27-0-117
Turnovers: San Diego 1, Cleveland 0
Third Downs: San Diego 38%, Cleveland 27%
Vegas Line: San Diego by 3, total of 41

The weather was pretty bad in this one...so there are some extenuating circumstances. Still, the Chargers needed to win in the playoff race...and they had a bye week to get ready for one of the worst teams in the AFC. It turns out that San Diego is also one of the worst teams in the AFC and people don't realize it yet!

BEST EXPECTATION
Tough call...because you don't know for sure what Kansas City's mindset is...and you can't be certain that San Diego has the ability right now to take candy from a baby if it's being offered. But, before their recent slide, San Diego had done a good job of winning handily against bad teams. That's typical for the Philip Rivers/Norv Turner era. They run up the score on bad teams then disappoint when it matters. This could get ugly quickly if the Chiefs lay down and Rivers wants to put on a show on TV.

On the other hand, this is a divisional REVENGE game for the Chiefs...and Kansas City's defense has been playing with some emotion. They kept the Baltimore game in doubt a few weeks ago...and forced a lot of field goals from Oakland last week. There's plenty of room in an eight-point spread for the Chiefs franchise to get what it wants while hanging within that tall number.

JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his sources because INFORMATION is going to be the key to tonight's game. Raw stat projections without turnovers would make it a fairly tight game...and you just can't assume Chiefs turnovers will continue at a crazy pace. The computer simulations are all over the place because each team has shown inconsistency in the past month. The motivation and mindset of the visitor will determine who covers...and the style of play that will determine the Over/Under winner.

You can get the final word from NETWORK in the hours leading up to kickoff Thursday afternoon right here at this website. We're also looking at the TNT game with the Thunder & Spurs in the NBA (Knicks/Nets were postponed). Basketball means we're back to winning seven days a week! If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Friday to preview Alabama-LSU in what might be the single most important college football game of the year. Saturday we'll crunch the numbers in Oregon-USC. Then, we're back to the prime time NFL games Sunday and Monday. Designed to provide the very best for sports bettors...the daily NOTEBOOK and JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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Nov

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