Thursday's national game—the first NFL game of November—is a trap game for the San Diego Chargers (3-4), hosting the Kansas City Chiefs (1-6). With the spread being set at a whopping 10 points (via ESPN), taking the Chargers (-10) is a bet you don't want to touch with a 10-foot pole.
Philip Rivers' Struggles
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is not playing like an elite quarterback of late. His completion percentage has dropped in each game since Week 4, bottoming out at 53 percent on Sunday.
The Chargers' three consecutive losses have each been worse than the one before. First, a loss to the New Orleans Saints with their defense in maximal chaos. Then a blowout loss against the Denver Broncos after holding a 24-point lead. Finally, an ugly 7-6 loss in Cleveland against the Browns.
Fans in San Diego are unhappy with their team and for good reason.
Rivers—soon to be 31 years old—was a Pro Bowler as recently as last season. However, he is not playing at the clear Pro Bowl level he has in the past. His quarterback rating has decreased every year since 2008, when he threw for 34 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.
The Chiefs, for their part, are 11th in the NFL against the pass, a respectable mark. Rivers does not have a cakewalk ahead of him.
The Running Game
In order to really blow out an opponent, a team needs to make stops and build a lead. But in this game, the Chiefs are going to be able to move the ball.
The Chiefs rank third in the NFL with over 155 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, the Chargers are 20th in the league on run defense.
People like to knock the Chiefs for their quarterback situation, and deservedly so. However, a team that can run the ball can keep the game close. Teams with poor quarterbacks are often underrated.
Take for example the New York Jets, led by maligned quarterback Mark Sanchez. They were massive underdogs recently against the Houston Texans and New England Patriots but covered the spread easily in both games, simply by moving the ball and keeping it close.
Blowouts are rarely as big as casual fans tend to predict. Sure, the Chargers deserve to be favorites in this game against the woeful Chiefs, but just barely. A 2.5-point spread would have been far more reasonable.
At 10 points, the Chiefs are the obvious choice. The Chiefs' ability to run the ball and slow down Rivers will make for a relatively low-scoring, close game heading into the fourth quarter.
If the Chargers lead by seven or more in the fourth, they will sit on the ball. The most likely result is that the game will be within 10 points the whole way. The second most likely result is that the Chiefs will fall behind by more than 10 but still backdoor cover.
Whichever case it turns out to be, you want no part of the Chargers (-10) this Thursday.