Thursday Night Football Picks: Los Angeles Chargers vs Kansas City Chiefs - the early battle for dominance in the loaded AFC West

NFL handicapper Ian Cameron previews week two's Thursday Night Football matchup between the 1-0 Los Angeles Chargers and 1-0 Kansas City Chiefs as both teams look to take the lead in the ultra-competitive AFC West division.

NFL Justin Herbert LA Chargers

Justin Herbert and the Chargers looked comfortable and explosive in week one versus the Raiders © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Ian Cameron

Betting expert

Ian is an industry-leading expert sports bettor, handicapper and podcast host, with decades of betting experience across all major sports. Ian uses a combination of handicapping techniques to find the best value for his followers.

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MatchupLos Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
LocationGEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
WhenThursday September 15, 8.15pm ET
Where to watchAmazon Prime

Have the Chargers patched the holes in their roster?

The Los Angeles Chargers got their season off on the right foot with a solid 23-19 home win against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 1. The Chargers offense, led by QB Justin Herbert looks the prolific and potent offense that we saw last season, particularly through the air, as Herbert completed 26-of-34 passes for 279 yards and a spotless 3-0 TD-INT ratio. Nine different Chargers caught passes, led by Keenan Allen (four receptions, 66 yards) and DeAndre Carter (three receptions, 64 yards, one TD), with them outgaining the Raiders 355-320 in total yards.

The major difference is the improvement in the LA Chargers defense, which was the clear weak link of the football team in 2021. The Chargers stop unit surrendered only 64 rushing yards and the upgraded pass rush, with Khalil Mack added in the offseason to team up with Joey Bosa, proved to be dominant, as the Chargers notched an incredible six sacks on Raiders QB Derek Carr. It’s a game the Chargers might have lost last season but instead they found a way to win it on Sunday. Keep an eye on the status of LA Chargers WR Keenan Allen for this week’s game as he left Sunday’s game against Las Vegas with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Chargers cornerback J.C. Jackson didn’t suit up for the opener and is questionable for this game.

NFL Pat Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs
Pat Mahomes and the Chiefs were dominant in week one versus the Arizona Cardinals © Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Mahomes and the Chiefs look formidable in week one

Elsewhere, the Kansas City Chiefs dismantled the Arizona Cardinals in a lopsided 44-21 blowout win that wasn’t competitive beyond halftime. Kansas City’s offense was in midseason form as QB Patrick Mahomes racked up five passing touchdowns (his passing TDs prop for week one was Over 2.5 at +155) and the Chiefs had 488 total yards on offense. It was the eighth straight victory in the season opener for Kansas City and the Chiefs held a 488-282 yardage advantage. They had a 33-18 edge in first downs and averaged 7.4 yards per play compared to just 4.5 yards per play for Arizona.

The defense for Kansas City also got a strong performance from their defensive front with three sacks against Arizona QB Kyler Murray. One of the major offseason storylines for Kansas City was how much the offense would miss Tyreek Hill at wide receiver after he signed with the Miami Dolphins in the offseason. At least in Week 1, it didn’t appear like they missed him at all. JuJu Smith-Schuster led the team from the WR position in targets, receptions and receiving yards in the win which is a good sign for a receiving corps dealing with a few changes from last year. The Kansas City defensive line with the likes of Frank Clark, Chris Jones and first round draft pick George Karlaftis also did a great job of winning their battle in the trenches throughout this game as well over the Arizona offensive line.

Chargers at Chiefs - a battle of AFC Super Bowl contenders?

The Los Angeles Chargers have played some of their best football against the Kansas City Chiefs over the last few years when these two AFC West division rivals have faced off. The Chargers have won outright as underdogs against the Chiefs in each of their last two visits to Arrowhead Stadium and they have covered in three of the last four meetings between them.

Herbert registered a very strong 63% completion rate and a 6-1 TD-INT ratio in the two regular season games against Kansas City last season. The offense was able to effectively move the football last season against the Chiefs defense and the Chargers have largely the same offensive line and skill position group intact to possibly duplicate that success against the Chiefs on Thursday night.

Kansas City’s defense was great in their season opener but we can chalk that up to how porous the Arizona offense were, and it didn’t help the Cardinals’ cause that they started the season without DeAndre Hopkins at WR who was sorely missed. The Chiefs secondary will be in for a tougher test here as the Chargers’ passing attack was very diverse. Herbert spread the football around, with nine different players with at least a reception and Kansas City lost Charvarius Ward and Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary from last year’s team. That could become more of an issue here than it was against Arizona. The Chargers didn’t run the football effectively against the Raiders despite the win and the Chiefs only allowed 103 rushing yards to the Cardinals with Kyler Murray the QB being the team’s leading rusher in that game.

Many of the betting trends for this game favor the LA Chargers (best odds: ) and the over ( ). The Chargers are 3-1-1 ATS in the last five meetings against the Chiefs and 3-0-1 ATS in their last four visits to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. The road team in this series is on a 16-5 ATS streak and the over has cashed in 8 of Kansas City’s last nine games.

NFL DeAndre Carter Los Angeles Chargers
Wide receiver, DeAndre Carter could be the difference maker for the Chargers if Keenan Allen misses this Thursday Night Football matchup © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Chargers vs Chiefs player to watch: DeAndre Carter, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

DeAndre Carter entered this season as a journeyman receiver who had three separate stints with Houston, as well as time spent with Philadelphia, Chicago, and most recently, Washington. The LA Chargers signed him in the offseason and he emerged as a surprise factor in the Chargers passing attack in their Week 1 victory against the Las Vegas Raiders. Carter was tied for the team lead in targets with three receptions on four targets for 64 yards and a TD. Once Keenan Allen left the game due to injury for the Chargers, Carter became a key component in the passing game. He is among the Chargers fastest wide receivers in terms of pure speed, which could make him a very fascinating and solid fit with Herbert and his rocket arm getting the football down the field quickly. If Allen doesn’t return from injury for this game, it wouldn’t surprise me if DeAndre Carter is once again counted upon by Herbert and could be in line for another very productive game on Thursday night. I’d be interested in Carter receptions and receiving yards props and this is an even stronger look if Keenan Allen doesn’t play on Thursday for LA.

Chargers at Chiefs picks and predictions

The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the teams I am most bullish about entering the NFL season. This roster is loaded - plain and simple. They have a much-improved offensive line playing in front of one of the best QBs in the NFL. They have good enough skill position weapons for Herbert and the defense, which was the Achilles heel of the team last season – it’s significantly better with Khalil Mack brought in to combine for a dynamic pass rushing duo with Joey Bosa. The secondary, with a healthy Derwin James at safety and J.C. Jackson at cornerback when he returns from injury, will make it difficult for opponents to make plays consistently down the field throwing the football against this Chargers team as well. The Los Angeles Chargers made critical plays on both sides of the football to win in Week 1 against Las Vegas and proved they could win a game that maybe would have slipped away from them last season.

Kansas City was very impressive too in their dominant win against Arizona but the Cardinals are a flawed team in many different areas and the Chiefs should find it more difficult on Thursday night. The LA Chargers have a solid track record in the last couple season against the Kansas City Chiefs, which includes defeating the Chiefs in each of the last two trips that they have made here. There is certainly concern for me backing road teams on Thursday Night Football who are forced to travel on a short week, but the Chargers have proven they are able to handle the environment at Arrowhead Stadium by winning here twice in a row.

Los Angeles has been very good in the road underdog role the last couple seasons as well. I’ll recommend the Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) to have another good performance here in Kansas City.

I’ll also most likely be looking to bet over receptions + receiving yards player props on DeAndre Carter for Los Angeles and JuJu Smith-Schuster for Kansas City, who I expect to be very much involved in the passing attack for their respective teams on Thursday night.

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