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Chargers put bettors in choke hold

It seems every season is some kind of comical misadventure for the San Diego Chargers. There is success followed by hope, failure followed by lost hope, and then it falls into Philip Rivers’ hands for an all-or-nothing game.

And sometimes, Rivers is the conquering hero as the Chargers head to the playoffs. This time, he wore goat horns, throwing two interceptions, coughing up a fumble and getting sacked seven times in a Week 17 version of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

The bettors paid for this train wreck, too. The bookmakers took it all, or almost all of it, anyway. There were a handful of sensible bettors on the other side.

“That was our best game of the day,” Westgate Las Vegas sports book director Jay Kornegay said. “We had a lot of action on the Chargers.”

Need a second source for this one-sided story?

“The best game was the Chargers game,” said oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro from the South Point sports book. “It turned out to be a monster decision.”

The fading Kansas City Chiefs, who had dropped four of their previous five games and were starting an inexperienced backup quarterback, came up big on the regular season’s final Sunday. The Chargers, who simply needed to win to get in the playoffs, went down 19-7.

There were squandered scoring opportunities and some questionable officiating, but the bottom line was another sorry choke job by San Diego.

Chase Daniel, forced into action late in the week because of Alex Smith’s lacerated spleen, avoided the mistakes that riddled Rivers. The line, which dropped two points to Kansas City minus-1 with the quarterback switch, closed at 2½ and 3 after a little late support showed for the Chiefs.

“I know the Chargers had some injuries, but something is wrong with that team,” Kornegay said. “The Chargers just show flashes and can’t seem to put it all together.”

The results put a bow on another 17-week NFL gift for the bookmakers. The bettors had about three solid winning Sundays.

“It actually was a pretty good day for us,” Kornegay said. “It would have been a great day if we could have got one more outright upset.”

Ideally for the bookmakers, Detroit would have pulled that upset. The Lions closed as 8-point underdogs in Green Bay, which led 14-0 but was on thin ice when Aaron Rodgers limped off with a calf injury in the second quarter.

“I thought he was really hurt when he went down,” Vaccaro said. “Our worst game was Willis Reed. When (Rodgers) walked out of the tunnel, I knew we were in bad shape.”

Rodgers made a dramatic return in the third quarter with the score tied at 14, and Vaccaro and everyone else sensed a momentum swing when the sure-fire MVP emerged from a Lambeau Field tunnel back onto the frozen tundra. The Packers won the NFC North title and covered in a 30-20 win.

“That’s something that looks like it’s going to linger for the rest of the playoffs,” Kornegay said. “I don’t think Rodgers will be 100 percent the rest of the way. Is he going to be 95 percent, 80 percent or less? He still does move better than Peyton Manning, though.”

The Broncos, 15-point favorites, routed the Oakland Raiders 47-14 in Denver even without a touchdown pass from Manning.

“There were some crazy things happening,” Kornegay said.

Seven of the 16 favorites covered, and Seattle got a crazy cover. The Seahawks, laying 11½ points and trailing 6-0 at halftime, stormed back to win 20-6 after Bruce Irvin intercepted a deflected pass and raced 49 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Pittsburgh, a 3- to 3½-point favorite, beat Cincinnati to claim the AFC North and covered in a 27-17 win as Antonio Brown busted loose for a 63-yard touchdown catch with 2:50 remaining.

For no apparent reason, Dallas played two of its injured stars, quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray, throughout a 44-17 win in Washington. The Cowboys, as crazy as it sounds, finished 12-4.

“I can’t believe the Cowboys went undefeated on the road. That’s incredible,” Kornegay said. “That’s a team that I didn’t think was going to win eight games all season, and they won all eight of their road games.”

On the underdog side, the New York Jets sent out coach Rex Ryan with a win in Miami. Arizona covered in a loss at San Francisco, which said goodbye to coach Jim Harbaugh. Carolina crushed Atlanta 34-3, spelling the end for Falcons coach Mike Smith. Chicago, likely parting ways with its clumsy coach and quarterback, covered in a loss at Minnesota.

“People were just betting against the Bears late in the season for obvious reasons,” Kornegay said, “and I don’t blame them.”

Buffalo finished with a winning record by winning at New England, which rested Tom Brady for a half. Philadelphia stopped a three-game losing skid by beating the New York Giants. Cleveland covered while allowing Baltimore to sneak into the playoffs.

Tampa Bay, the team that needed to lose to wrap up the No. 1 draft pick, led 20-7 before tanking it in the second half. Drew Brees, who seemed to be playing to lose by throwing three interceptions, rallied New Orleans, a 6-point favorite, to a phony 23-20 victory.

If the Chargers could have played the Buccaneers in an all-or-nothing game, this would be a totally different story.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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