In the final weekend of the regular season, the 6-9 Los Angeles Chargers will go up against the 14-1 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers have quietly won three games in a row as they hope to build momentum for next season, while the Chiefs have the one-seed in the AFC locked up and plan to rest quarterback Patrick Mahomes for this game.
Here is a closer look at each team, along with betting trends and a free pick. Due to Mahomes sitting, Los Angeles is a 3.5-point favorite on the road.
It was rough sledding for the Chargers in 2020. L.A. started the year 2-7, their two wins coming against the lowly Bengals and Jaguars. Even more painfully, all of those losses were by single-digits. Their low point came a few weeks ago, when they suffered a 45-0 defeat at home to the Patriots, their worst loss in franchise history. But since then, the Chargers have won their last three and can salvage the year with a 7-9 record if they win.
The biggest standout for L.A. this year has been rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who has over 4,000 yards in 14 starts. He leads an offense that averages 23.1 points per game, 21st in the NFL, but ranks within the top-10 with 393 yards per game. They're also inside the top-10 in passing yards per game as well as third-down success rate.
Defensively, the Chargers sit 10th in yards allowed with 357.5, boosted by solid pass defense. But their 27 points allowed per game is 24th in the NFL, while their third-down defense is just 20th. In addition, L.A. also has 26 sacks on the season to go along with 12 interceptions.
Things couldn't have gone much better for the defending champions this year. The Chiefs suffered one loss all year, a 40-32 loss at home to the Raiders back in Week 5. Every other week has resulted in a win, with victories over the Ravens, Bills, and Saints being the most impressive. Now even though Mahomes will be sitting in Week 17, Kansas City has a chance to enter the playoffs on an impressive 11-week win streak.
Quarterback Chad Henne will lead an offense on Sunday that is the best in football. Kansas City averages 30.1 points per game, the second-most in the NFL, while leading the league with both 309 passing yards and 436 total yards per game. Their 48 percent success rate on third down is also within the top-three.
On the defensive side, the Chiefs rank a formidable sixth in points allowed, giving up 21.6 per game. But their 365.7 yards allowed ranks 14th, while their third-down defense is right in the middle of the pack at 16th. K.C. also has 29 sacks as a team but are tied for second with 16 interceptions.
Beginning with the visitors, the 6-9 Chargers are 7-7-1 ATS, which includes a 2-5 road record in which they're also 3-3-1 ATS. However, they have failed to cover in six of their last nine games overall and in six of their last eight conference games. L.A. has also covered in two of their previous eight games against Kansas City, one of those from Week 2 of this year.
As for Kansas City, the 14-1 Chiefs are just 6-8-1 ATS, which includes a 6-1 home record but a mark of 3-4 ATS. Remarkably, the defending champs have failed to cover in each of their last seven games, going 0-6-1 ATS. However, K.C. enters the contest 13-5 ATS in their previous 18 games against the AFC and 12-1 overall in their last 13 against the Chargers.
The big x-factor here is how the Chiefs play without Mahomes and other key starters, as Henne will make his first start since 2014. However, Los Angeles is also not at full-strength, as star receiver Keenan Allen has been placed on the COVID/Reserve list and is out for the game.
However, it's hard to pick the Chiefs in this one without the bulk of their best players. Historically, teams with home-field advantage wrapped up entering Week 17 fail to cover far more often than not. Expect Herbert and the Chargers to continue their strong play and finish the year off with a win, upending their division rivals in the process.
Betting Pick: Los Angeles Chargers (-3.5).