Chargers vs. Chiefs: Can Los Angeles Beat Another Division Rival on NFL Week 2 Thursday Night Football?

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Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers attempts a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/AFP.

Top sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for this week’s edition of Thursday Night Football between the Chargers and Chiefs.

You should be very careful about how to approach this game. It is never a good idea simply to use the prior’s week’s results as your guide to betting on a given week.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this contest.

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Los Angeles Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

Thursday, September 15, 2022 – 08:15 PM EDT at Arrowhead Stadium

Avoid Overreacting to Week 1 

Week 2 is commonly called the week of overreactions because bettors attach too much significance to Week 1's results.

To be clear, every week involves overreactions because of a psychological phenomenon called recency bias where most recent effects exercise an excessive influence on our perception. But Week 2 is especially dangerous because there has only been one regular season game played so far.

Among other things, it is tempting to think that the rest of the season will proceed as it did in Week 1. My point in giving this explanation is to caution you from attaching too much significance to Kansas City's dominating victory over Arizona.

It is easy to think that the Chiefs should be favored more heavily in their upcoming game against the Chargers and that, therefore, the Chiefs as short favorites are "easy money." This line of thinking, however, would be very wrong.


What Happened in Arizona? 

Patrick Mahomes on Fire

Kansas City beat Arizona 44-21. Despite dropping back 39 times, Patrick Mahomes was sacked zero times.

When Mahomes threw, his favorite recipient was Travis Kelce, who easily led the Chiefs in both receptions and receiving yards.

Cardinals Missing Some Names

While Arizona had one of the NFL's better pass rushes last season (it ranked 12th in sack rate), it also boasted the presence of star pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Jones had 10.5 sacks in 15 games played but is now a Raider.

Missing its top two wide receivers from last season, Arizona's offense further helped Kansas City's cause.

Why Did the Chiefs Win?

Unable to sustain drives (the Cardinals possessed the ball for almost 10 minutes fewer than the Chiefs), Arizona repeatedly had to give the ball back to Mahomes too quickly, which exacerbated its defensive issues by hindering the defense from gaining sufficient rest between drives.

In the first half, for example, the Cardinals mustered only one drive that lasted longer than two minutes.

Bettors will expect some sort of repeat performance from the Chiefs this week, but nothing that I described above will take place in Thursday's game.


AFC West Frenemies

One chief advantage that Los Angeles has is familiarity with Kansas City, a division rival. This familiarity worked to the Chargers' advantage in their series last year against the Chiefs.

The results speak for themselves, especially as they are what they are despite the fact that Los Angeles' defense is substantially worse than it is now (the Chargers ranked 23rd in total defense) while the Chiefs miss speedy star Tyreek Hill.

To be exact, in Week 3 of last season, Los Angeles upset Kansas City in Kansas City even though the Chiefs were favored by 7. Then, in Week 15, the Chiefs required overtime to win.


Chargers' Pass Rush 

Whereas Arizona missed a star in Chandler Jones, the Chargers improved a pass rush that ranked 20th in sack rate last season.

After a week of action (they beat the Raiders in Week 1), L.A. ranks third in the category.

The Bosa-Mack Threat

This week, Mahomes will have both Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to worry about. Both are star pass-rushers who demand double team-level attention on every down. But, when they are both out there, an opposing pass-protection unit is unable to commit this kind of necessary attention.

The results are predictable: last week, Bosa achieved 1.5 sacks and Mack accumulated 3 sacks. Of course, I don't want to be ironic and commit recency bias myself. These two players don't have to accumulate 4.5 sacks in order for their team to win on Thursday. But they are All-Pro-caliber players, and the threat they pose is nothing new.

Hence, teams around the league try very hard to get a second solid pass-rusher to take attention off the first. Examples include Cleveland and, more recently, Jacksonville.

In getting a second-star pass rusher, L.A. is simply following a tried and trusted formula, one that will give the Chiefs a radically more difficult test than the one it encountered against Arizona.


Chargers' Secondary 

Last season, the Chargers' secondary had to rely on a regressed Michael Davis (Davis allowed a 69.9 passer rating in 2020 but a 91.9 passer rating last season) and an often injured Asante Samuel Jr.

Now, star safety Derwin James is healthy. When these teams played in December, Kelce had one catch for 14 yards in 22 snaps when James was on the field. Kelce, who went on to catch the winning touchdown in overtime, relied glaringly on James' absence. Kelce and the Chiefs' pass attack will suffer for James being healthy and active this week.

Plus, L.A.'s secondary receives help in the form of Bryce Callahan who has really struggled against speed and would have suffered if Hill were still playing for the Chiefs. Moreover, Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson might be healthy for this game.


Chargers' Offense vs. Chiefs' Defense 

Always better in the first half of a given season than in the second, Chargers' quarterback Justin Herbert threw for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns in last year's win in Kansas City.

Herbert encounters a Chiefs' defense (a group that annually is average or very bad in terms of opposing yards per game) that fields a significant amount of players either taking on increased responsibility this year or playing their first ever NFL regular season games.

While Keenan Allen might not play, the Chiefs may also miss a starting corner as rookie Trent McDuffie is hurt.


Chargers vs. Chiefs: Pick and Prediction

Expect the Chargers to be strong in many ways and in many ways that Kansas City's opponent last week was not.

Familiar with and repeatedly solid against a Kansas City unit that now has less to offer offensively and still lacks much to offer defensively, L.A.'s star-laden and well-rounded unit will surprise bettors who expect continued Chiefs success while forgetting these teams' recent histories and changes in personnel.

For the above reasons, I recommend playing the Chargers with your NFL picks.

Score Prediction: Chargers 30 - Chiefs 24

NFL Pick: Chargers +3.5 (-115) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Chargers +3.5 (-115)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.