NFL Week 15 Best Bets: Chiefs vs. Chargers Thursday Night Football Picks

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Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs. David Eulitt/Getty Images/AFP

The Kansas City Chiefs (9-4) take their six-game winning streak into Los Angeles to take on the Chargers (8-5) in a battle for first place in the AFC West. It is the biggest game for the Chargers since their last playoff appearance in the 2018 season. The Chargers can sweep the Chiefs after winning 30-24 in Arrowhead in Week 3.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Thursday, December 16, 2021 – 08:20 PM EST at SoFi Stadium

The Chiefs (6-7 ATS) are a 3.5-point road favorite over the Chargers (7-6 ATS) at many of BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks. Kansas City’s defense has been incredible during this win streak, but the Chargers bring the best quarterback and offense the Chiefs have seen in several weeks. Can Justin Herbert outduel Patrick Mahomes on Thursday night?

Week 3 Recap: Chargers 30, Chiefs 24

When these teams met in Week 3, the Chiefs were playing horrendous defense and a highly effective offense that was only plagued by turnovers. The Chiefs turned the ball over on their first three drives to the Chargers, all deep in scoring territory. Despite this, the Chiefs still came back from a 14-0 deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead before the defense surrendered the lead back late.

In a tied game, Mahomes forced an interception on third-and-long that the Chargers returned to their own 41. After mismanaging the situation, the Chargers got lucky to convert a fourth-and-9 with a defensive pass interference penalty.

The Chargers again mismanaged things by going for a touchdown and missing an extra point with 32 seconds left instead of setting up a field goal on the final play. This set up Mahomes for a Hail Mary on the last play that fell incomplete.

The Chargers survived for a 30-24 win with Herbert throwing four touchdowns. The Chiefs were very efficient with a season-high 33 first downs and one of their best rushing performances (186 yards), but four turnovers were too many to overcome.

Chiefs: The Upside Down World

In an incredible turn of events, the Chiefs have gone from arguably the worst defense in the NFL through five weeks to arguably the best defense since. During this six-game winning streak, the Chiefs have not allowed more than 17 points and the defense has multiple takeaways in the last five games, including five thefts of the Raiders on Sunday in a 48-9 rout. The defense has scored as many touchdowns (two) in the last three games as it has allowed.

Mahomes is 40-1 when the Chiefs allow fewer than 27 points in his starts. While he appears unstoppable with an elite defense, the Kansas City offense has regressed during this team turnaround.

In the last seven games, the offense has only scored more than 20 points twice, and both games were against the outmatched Raiders. While the offense has cut down on turnovers, the occasional bad fumble or tipped pass for an interception still plague the Chiefs at times.

The Chargers have been a tougher opponent than most for Mahomes in his career. While he is 4-2 against them, he only averages 6.78 yards per pass and has a 94.1 passer rating in those games, well below his career averages.

The only time Mahomes has passed for more than 260 yards on the Chargers was the 302 yards in an overtime win a year ago, Herbert’s first start where he took Mahomes to overtime and nearly pulled off the upset.

The Chargers have not been a great defense this season, especially against the run. The Giants on Sunday were the first team the Chargers held under 22 points since the first four weeks of the season.

If the Chiefs protect the ball better than last time, they should have an adequate offensive game here, but likely not up to the standards of what they’ve done against the Raiders recently.

Chargers: Herbert for MVP?

If Herbert can crack this stingy defense in prime time and get a sweep of the Chiefs on his resume, he may have the best argument for MVP in a down year for the award.

Herbert threw three more touchdowns on Sunday without Keenan Allen (COVID) available to become the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns in each of his first two seasons. Herbert threw an incredible 59-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton, the second-longest completion thrown by any quarterback this season.

The Chargers are 8-5 despite ranking 27th in points allowed and near the bottom in non-quarterback rushing yards. Herbert (67.5) trails Tom Brady (67.6) for the lead in ESPN’s QBR by one-tenth of a decimal point and has the most Expected Points Added (93.4) of any quarterback this year.

Herbert is tied for the league lead with five game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks for a franchise that is used to blowing close games.

In three of the last four games, Herbert has led the Chargers to at least 37 points. He has played the Chiefs well in his career, but it would certainly help if Allen can return in this game as his top wideout after about with COVID kept him out of Sunday’s game. Allen was not needed against the Giants, but the Chiefs present a tougher matchup for sure.

Predictions

This is a high-stakes game with big-name talent. It could be a great one, but while I am still trying to wrap my head around being more worried about Mahomes’ offense than the defense, I am going to trust Andy Reid and the Chiefs to be better prepared for this rematch on a short week over a rookie coach.

I believe in the Kansas City defense to keep the score down and the Chiefs to not turn it over four times again. I’ll take the Chiefs to cover to start your NFL picks for Week 15.

NFL Pick: Chiefs -3.5 (-110) with Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Chiefs -3.5 (-110)
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