CHARGERS (10-3) AT CHIEFS (11-2)
TV: Ch. 5, NFL, 8:20 p.m.
Line: Chiefs by 3.5; O/U: 53.5
The NFL saved the best Thursday Night Football matchup of 2018 for last as Chiefs vs. Chargers vying for the AFC West title makes for a riveting season finale.
Before we dive into this matchup, I want to hop in my Twitter time machine and take you back to Week 15 of last season: Chargers at Chiefs. Saturday night. Both teams 7-6 and vying for the division crown. Yep, I made the Bolts my best bet and after a close game in the third quarter turned into a 30-13 Chiefs win, my lock was soon mocked as the popular Twitter account "Freezing Cold Takes" caught wind of it.
So why am I bringing this up? Because all year I've anticipated this matchup and kept telling myself to learn my lesson and just play it safe by taking the Chiefs. They haven't lost to the Chargers since Dec. 29, 2013, winning nine meetings in a row. Going with the home team on Thursday night has been a winning formula this year, too: Hosts are 11-2 straight up and 10-2-1 against the spread. Furthermore, the Chiefs are 6-0 at home. But here's the thing when picking NFL games: You have to trust your instincts and not be afraid to take a chance just because of a past mistake.
So I'm rolling with the Chargers once again. Yes, they're banged up at running back and may not have Melvin Gordon or Austin Ekeler. Rookie Justin Jackson will have to step up as he did in the comeback win at Pittsburgh. Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen can pick apart a Chiefs' pass defense ranked last in the NFL at 282 yards per game. They've allowed 25 touchdowns through the air. Unlike the Chiefs, the Chargers defend the pass well (225 ypg).
The Chargers, who have no home-field advantage, have excelled on the road with a 5-1 record, including a win at difficult-to-play Seattle. Their lone loss was at the Rams back in Week 3. The wild win at Pittsburgh on Sunday night in Week 13 could provide them the confidence they need to go into Arrowhead and finally change the narrative.
Rivers threw for 424 yards and three touchdowns in the 38-28 loss to the Chiefs in Week 1. The main reason KC won that game was Tyreek Hill, who gave them a 14-3 lead with a punt return score and TD catch. He was banged up at the end of the Ravens game on Sunday, and that could be an issue on a short week. Not having Kareem Hunt is obviously a big factor, too.
As phenomenal as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense have been, they haven't been as invincible as they were early on. They're 0-3 ATS in their last three home games, albeit bigger spreads than this matchup. If not for a crazy fourth-and-long completion on Sunday, they would've lost to the Ravens, 24-17, instead of winning by a field goal in overtime.
KC all but locks up home field for the playoffs with a win, so the motivation is obviously there. But the Chargers — my preseason pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl — can bolt into the first-round bye discussion with a win here.
This has the makings of a classic, one that won't be decided till late. It's easy to just take the home team here with history on its side, but I think Rivers and the L.A. defense are a good play with the points and could make a statement that they're a Super Bowl contender with a win.
The pick: Chargers
Bob Glauber: Chiefs
Tom Rock: Chiefs
Al Iannazzone: Chiefs