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Saturday, December 27, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 17: Chargers Vs Chiefs

San Diego Chargers Vs. Kansas City Chiefs: SD +1.5 (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

With the surprise news that Alex Smith won't play in this game, we've seen a significant line move from the opener.  It started out at -2.5, went as high as -4.5 midweek, and now has dropped down to -1.5 after the QB change.  Was that enough of an adjustment?  It all depends on what you think of Chase Daniel.  So far, 77% of the bets are supporting San Diego.

Bottom Line

This is a really tricky matchup to handicap. The Chiefs are the better team, and they play at home. Because of this, I had no interest in playing this game, especially since the point spread was exactly where it should've been when it was hovering around -4.

But now that we have Chase Daniel instead of Alex Smith, it adds a whole new dynamic to consider. The current line is probably a fair one, but I'm willing to take a position here and put my faith in Philip Rivers.

KC's defense is respectable this year, but they aren't as dominant as they were a season ago. And while the Chargers will be without two big weapons in Allen and Mathews, they will always be in a position to move the ball and win the game as long as Rivers is under center. There's no better example of that than last week when he led a crazy comeback against the 49ers. The other "clutch" element that is vitally important is SD's ranking on 3rd/4th down this year, which happens to be 2nd in the league overall.  That is no accident either as they were 1st in the league last year. When you need a big play, Rivers finds a way to make it happen more times than not.

But where I like SD's chances even more is on the other side of the ball. The first time these two teams met they were missing three starting linebackers and a healthy Brandon Flowers. All of these guys are back in the lineup and healthy, which should give Daniel and this KC offense a bigger challenge. And what's the one thing we could count on when Alex Smith was under center?  A safe structure, and a guy who knew the system well. Daniel is a guy who can make all the throws, but he's also more erratic than Smith, and there's bound to be a few critical mistakes on Sunday.

Could Reid take the ball out of his hands and rely heavily on the run game?  He'll likely start off like that, but how many times has he gotten away from Charles this year?  He's done it far too many times, which surprises no one that has watched football over the last decade.  And what if KC fall behind a couple scores?  Will Daniel be able to lead them back?

San Diego control their playoff destiny, and they clinch a spot with a win.  The Chiefs need a minor miracle as they need to win this game and get help from two other teams.  For me, there is just too much uncertainty with KC with the QB change, and I trust Rivers to put his team in a position to win. And if they are trailing, he's more than capable of leading a comeback with their season on the line.

If you're too hesitant about SD to win this game, they also make for a great teaser option at this number.

NFL Pick: SD +1.5.
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