Week 15 in the NFL begins with an AFC West showdown between the Chargers and Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. For this game and every other primetime contest, we’ll break down the sports betting lines and recommend where to place your bets at DraftKings Sportsbook, BetStars, and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kick off since things can change quickly in the NFL. Any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if he doesn’t respond well in warm-ups.
Week 15 Thursday Night Football Betting Odds
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
The run-heavy Chargers limp into this key AFC West showdown with their two lead backs close to doubtful.
Austin Ekeler is dealing with a neck stinger and is in concussion protocol and has been ruled out for Thursday night. Melvin Gordon practiced on a limited basis this, but Adam Schefter reports that “it will be challenging” for Gordon to play through an MCL sprain tonight. He’s officially listed as a game-time decision.
If Gordon is inactive, rookie Justin Jackson will have a consistent role in a great matchup. The Chiefs are dead last in DVOA rush defense and allow a robust 5.1 YPC this season. Jackson is worth consideration as a value play in DFS contests on DraftKings and FanDuel despite his disappointing line in Week 14.
Finally, Detrez Newsome would mix in behind Jackson if Gordon is inactive. Newsome has no track record in the NFL and went undrafted, but did set scoring records at Western Carolina.
The Chargers rank dead last in pace of play this year because they’ve been able to run the ball so effectively and use slot-maven Keenan Allen as an extension of the running game. Allen went for 108 receiving yards in a TD when the Chiefs beat the Chargers 38-28 in Week 1 out in Los Angeles.
While the Chargers outgained the Chiefs 541-362 and rushed for 123 yards in Week 1, this game will be played at raucous Arrowhead Stadium. Temperatures are predicted in the mid-30s with potentially wet conditions. (Forecast is for rain all day, stopping right before game time.)
Kansas City yields 33.7 PPG on the road this season but is holding opponents to 18.7 PPG with a 9:8 TD:INT ratio, 74.1 passer rating allowed, and 24 sacks produced over six home games.
It’s not a great track record for the Chargers in KC. Philip Rivers has posted a putrid 2:6 TD:INT ratio while absorbing a whopping 15 sacks over his last four trips to Arrowhead. The Chiefs are 10th in adjusted sack rate this year and are a handful now that Justin Houston (hamstring) is fully healthy. He’s again playing like one of the top pass rushers in the game.
In other big news, Eric Berry (Achilles) looks to suit up for the first time this season with the division and home-field advantage on the line. He’ll be on a snap count, but his presence will help neutralize Allen and could render ancient TE Antonio Gates a nonfactor.
Allen draws a tough individual matchup against Chiefs above-average slot CB Kendall Fuller, who has allowed only 2 TDs all year and has helped hold Julian Edelman, Jarvis Landry, Larry Fitzgerald, and Emmanuel Sanders (twice) under 60 scoreless yards.
On the outside, the Chargers have capable weapons in Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams. Also, Travis Benjamin is more of a “gadget player” capable of breaking a big gain when used in the right situation. KC has allowed the most pass plays (56) of 20-plus yards this season.
It is no secret the Chargers will look to run early and often, limiting the opportunities for Kansas City’s dynamic offense. Their offensive line ranks sixth in adjusted line yards, but 23rd in power run blocking. Thus, the Chiefs might be able to stack the box, bracket Allen in key situations, and get off the field.
On the other side of the ball, the Chargers defense is reeling a bit. Most pressingly, DT Corey Liuget (quad), NT Brandon Mebane (personal), MLB Denzel Perryman (hamstring), and WLB Kyzir White (knee) are all inactive.
The Bolts still rank ninth in DVOA pass defense and are holding QBs to a 79.4 passer rating on the road. Joey Bosa has given that unit a lift after missing the first half of the season with a foot injury.
That’s all fine and good, but numbers against other QBs have little to do with whether a defense is capable of stopping Patrick Mahomes. The MVP candidate scrambled and tossed his way to 377 yards and 2 TDs against the Ravens second-rated pass defense last week. And he completed 15-of-27 passes for 256 yards and 4 TDs at the Chargers in Week 1.
Tyreek Hill has been a matchup nightmare for Chargers top CB Casey Hayward and continued to torture him with a 7-169-2TD line in the opener. Hill added a 91-yard punt return TD that tipped game flow in favor of the Chiefs. Do note though, Hill is dealing with a foot injury that HC Andy Reid calls “minor” and is expected to play with aid from painkillers. He’s seeing 11.4 targets per game with Sammy Watkins (foot) on the shelf. As always, Hill’s threatening speed opens things up for the rest of the Chiefs offense.
Hill aside, the Chargers have done a great job containing KC’s other top option, TE Travis Kelce. He’s managed only 9 catches for 61 scoreless yards over his last four meetings with the Bolts. Yet Kelce has been a monster lately and is likely to snap that streak. Plus, Reid usually schemes him open in different ways.
Rookie LB Derwin James has keyed the Chargers’ excellent TE coverage this season, but the Chiefs are deep enough to get athletic TE Demetrius Harris in space if the defense sells out to stop Kelce again.
KC is also seeing a rising role from Demarcus Robinson, a third-year Florida product with good downfield ability. Robinson ran a season-high 41 routes last week and may be utilized more than Chris Conley since the Chargers are more vulnerable down the field than to underneath targets.
Also at WR, Kelvin Benjamin could see his first action with the Chiefs. The 6-foot-5 target could be used situationally as a red zone specialist against the Chargers smaller cornerbacks.
Then, after giving up 111 rushing yards to Joe Mixon and a one-dimensional Bengals offense last week, it’s hard to have much faith in the Chargers rush defense. Kansas City’s offensive line ranks sixth in power run blocking and should open holes for whichever RB they use to maintain balance with Spencer Ware (hamstring) likely out.
Damien Williams played 43 snaps in an overtime win over Baltimore last week and is an excellent receiver. The Chargers have coughed up the third-most receiving yards (754) to opposing backs this season. Charcandrick West should mix in for touches since he’s familiar with the Chiefs system. Darrel Williams has only played on five snaps since Kareem Hunt was released. He would only see work if West is still inactive.
The Chargers will look to slow the pace, but the home team often dictates tempo in primetime games. Home teams are 12-2 on Thursday night and 5-0-1 against the spread the last six TNF games.
KC has covered the spread in four straight meetings with the Chargers and seven of the last nine. If Gordon is ruled out, the spread could grow. But for now, taking the Chiefs (-3.5) is a comfortable wager.
KC is seventh in neutral pace and fourth when leading by 7-plus points. Therefore, the Over (53.5) is also a tempting bet. This total opened at 56.5 points but was quickly bet down on most sportsbooks. That’s mostly due to news about the Chargers’ lead backs and the weather.
Since the Chiefs face second-most pass attempts (40.9) per game, the Chargers could still keep pace by taking to the air. They might elongate this game by passing more if KC gets off to a hot start. KC also ranks 28th in red zone defense and allows the fifth-most points per drive (2.45). Offensively, these teams rank second and fourth in points per drive. Also, KC leads the NFL in points per red zone trip (5.77).
Wet conditions on the field might benefit speedy receivers such as Tyreek Hill and Keenan Allen more than defenses because secondaries will be hard pressed to change direction chasing those game-breakers.
Bets are split pretty close down the middle with a slight edge toward the Chiefs and the Over. Ultimately, we would recommend taking the Chiefs to cover first and foremost. After that, you could potentially tease the Chargers with the Over (6.5pt tease to move line to +3). That move would predict a score along the lines of Chiefs 34, Chargers 21.