NFL Week 3 Top Play vs. Spread: Chiefs (+15) at San Diego Chargers? You Bet!

Mark CrystelContributor IIISeptember 20, 2011

Seattle (+15) had no chance last week, but history dictates this 15 point underdog does.
Seattle (+15) had no chance last week, but history dictates this 15 point underdog does.Bob Levey/Getty Images

Those in and around the Steel City might remember when the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the 1988 season with a 51-0 loss followed by a 41-10 loss.

That's enough to make any Steeler fan lose their appetite, even in the face of a Primantis sandwich.

But against the Vikings in Game 3, they won outright as an eight-point underdog.

Ten years later the expansion Browns started slow as expected, with a pair of losses to the tune of 43-0 and 26-9. They were essentially written off in Week 3 as a 13-point underdog, but kept it close at Baltimore and lost by just a touchdown.

In 2008, the Bengals opened with a pair of offensively anemic games at Baltimore and vs. Tennessee, scoring just one touchdown in each game. Their next game was at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, who were 2-0 and fresh off a 28-point win at Saint Louis.

As a 13-point underdog, the Bengals took that game to overtime and lost by a field goal.

And just last season, the Buffalo Bills seemed lost after a 34-7 loss at Green Bay, having scored just one touchdown in their first game.  Written off as a 15-point underdog at New England in Game 3, Ryan Fitzpatrick started in relief of Trent Edwards, and gave the Bills a chance to win.  They lost 38-30.

There are scores of other examples, but you probably get the idea.

Fast forward to the present, and the Chiefs are coming off a pair of embarrassing non-conference blowouts but now find themselves as a hefty underdog against a conference opponent. 

It's not the first time.

In 2006 the Chiefs scored 10 and six points in their first two games, then defeated San Francisco 41-0 on the way to the playoffs.

The next season Kansas City got off to a slow start once again, scoring three and 10 points in the first two games.  They won the third game over Minnesota, then defeated San Diego, on the road, as a 12-point underdog.

The pattern continued in 2008 when they scored 10 and eight points in the first two games.  They lost the third game handily, but won the next game against Denver as an eight-point underdog.

There will likely be no playoffs for the Chiefs this season like in 2006.  But like Denver in 2008, the Chargers are a league team and thus, a team the Chiefs are more familiar with.

These two teams split last season, with Kansas City taking the game at Arrowhead Stadium, but losing in terrible fashion at San Diego in the rematch.

At Detroit, the Chiefs started each and every one of their drives in their own territory while the Lions, after a slow start on four of their first five possessions, began five of their next eight drives in Kansas City territory.

Now void of running back Jamaal Charles and their top defensive player Eric Berry, the Chiefs seem to be swimming even further up stream for this game, but stranger things have happened—especially to teams that lost handily in their first two games of the season.

As a matter of fact, over 70 percent of NFL teams over the last decade have failed to lose their third game by more than 14 points after scoring one or less touchdowns in each of their first two games.

Compounding the matter is the fact the Chiefs were (-5) in turnover margin in the loss at Detroit, and their defense will be furious and embarrassed after giving up 40 plus points in each of the first two games, which is rare for an NFL team. It's even more rare to give up 40 points in three consecutive games, so history would dictate it's just not likely to happen in this game.

Factor in Matt Cassell's pride being destroyed through the first two games, and you've got a recipe for a better offensive and defensive effort all around out of the Chiefs, and thus, a spread cover. The player's job stability depends on it.

Asking the Chiefs to pull off a surprise win over at San Diego, like they did in 2006 after a 45-7 loss at Pittsburgh or in 2007 as a 13-point underdog after scoring a total of two touchdowns in the first three games, is asking a lot.  However, look for them to cover the big number this weekend against Phillip Rivers and company.

Unlike Seattle, who was at a huge disadvantage last weekend having to travel east for a 1:00 non-conference game, this is a 15-point conference underdog you can feel more dependent on.

By the way, those 1988 Steelers: they ended up making the playoffs.

Take Kansas City to cover 14.5 points