NFL forecast: Chargers, Rivers should finally finish

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

October 1, 2017 02:42 AM
rivers
The Chargers are 9-26 since the start of the 2015 season, with Philip Rivers starting all of those games. L.A. is winless but still favored against Philadelphia on Sunday.
© USA Today Sports Images

As a competitor, Philip Rivers is often described as a winner. It’s probably an apt description, yet the problem with that is he rarely wins anymore. The Chargers were losers when they left San Diego and nothing has changed in Los Angeles.

When a game is on the line, no team has more experience at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Sometimes the coach, the defense and the kicker are to blame. But some of it falls on the quarterback.

The Chargers are 9-26 since the start of the 2015 season, with Rivers starting all of those games. It’s time for him to finish one on the winning end.

If it seems odd to see the winless Chargers favored over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, that’s because it is odd. The Eagles (2-1) have a good shot to be a playoff team. The Chargers are just trying to win a game and escape the discussion about which team is the worst in the NFL.

The Chargers are 2-point favorites because the so-called sharps are on their side. Follow the sharp money with your fingers crossed. A few weeks ago, this was a team perceived by many to be on the rise in the AFC West. That perception has changed, though it remains a more talented team than 0-3 indicates.

The Eagles are underdogs because this is a bad spot for a team dealing with key injuries. Their top defensive player, tackle Fletcher Cox, is out along with two cornerbacks and a safety. Running back Darren Sproles is done for the year. A week after beating the rival New York Giants on a 61-yard field goal as the clock expired, the Eagles are flying to the West Coast to face an opponent they are not as motivated to play.

The Chargers have plenty of shortcomings. Anthony Lynn is a first-year coach learning on the job, which means he’s making costly mistakes. The kicker is shaky. The defense, though strong up front with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, ranks 31st in the league against the run.

It’s on Rivers to make more plays than the opposing quarterback, Carson Wentz, when it matters. That’s the NFL in a nutshell. Rivers, who has tossed 25 interceptions in the past 19 games, is looking to rebound from an awful three-pick performance against Kansas City.

The situation calls for a play on the Chargers. Rivers needs to write the script, and he would be wise not to leave it up to the kicker if the game is on the line.

Four more picks for Week 4 (home team in CAPS):

* Saints (-3) over Dolphins: The maligned New Orleans defense intercepted Carolina’s Cam Newton three times and sacked him four times in a 34-13 win a week ago. The Saints headed to London for this game with some momentum. A Miami defense that was just picked apart by Josh McCown now faces Drew Brees, who has completed 68.5 percent of his passes with six touchdowns. In 111 dropbacks, Brees has been sacked only three times. The New Orleans offense has not committed a turnover. The Dolphins, away from home for almost a month after being forced out by a hurricane, are dealing with a brutal scheduling stretch. Brees is a better option than Cutler, and the Saints are in a better spot as a team.

* Rams (plus-6½) over COWBOYS: One L.A. team is really on the rise. The Rams are benefitting from a coaching upgrade. Sean McVay has the offense clicking, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is among the best in the business. Dallas, which was fortunate to win Monday at Arizona, is showing signs of dysfunction. Phillips’ plan will be to slow Ezekiel Elliott and the running attack and force quarterback Dak Prescott to be the catalyst. Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, the glue for a defense that could fall apart without him, is questionable with a hamstring injury. This line opened at 8½ and has dropped for good reasons.

* Giants (plus-3) over BUCCANEERS: It’s a familiar theme for the Giants, who are 0-3 and desperate. Eli Manning, who finally moved the offense in the fourth quarter last week at Philadelphia, has several weapons capable of exploiting Tampa Bay’s pass defense, which ranks 31st by surrendering 330 yards per game. The Buccaneers are 2-8 against the spread in their past 10 as home favorites.

* BRONCOS (-3) over Raiders: This is far from an ideal bounce-back spot for Derek Carr and the Raiders, who face Von Miller and Denver’s No. 4-ranked defense. The Broncos have a big, physical secondary and rank first in the league against the run by allowing 59.7 yards per game. There are plenty of holes in Oakland’s defense, and Trevor Siemian is comfortable at home in Denver, where he passed for 450 yards and six touchdowns in two wins this season. Bet on the better defense, although laying 2½ points earlier in the week was the better move.

Last week: 5-0 against the spread

Season: 8-6-1

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