October 17, 2014 - 11:00 pm
Everything is flowing for Philip Rivers this season, and no defense is slowing him. The San Diego Chargers quarterback has such a hot hand, he should be shooting at a craps table.
After stumbling in the season opener, Rivers has resembled the lightning bolt on the Chargers’ helmet. He’s the top-rated passer in the NFL for a team that is 5-1 straight up and against the spread.
It’s not entirely unexpected, unlike the rise of Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. San Diego won a playoff game last season, and Rivers reached the Pro Bowl. There were reasons to believe he would come back even better.
But no quarterback has been better. Rivers has completed 69.3 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. His top wideouts, Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd, are explosive, and veteran tight end Antonio Gates appears ageless. The Chargers’ offense ranks near the top of the league in most key categories.
It’s tempting to ride the Chargers’ roll, but the Kansas City Chiefs have some appealing qualities, too, so I’ll take a shot with the 4-point underdog Sunday in San Diego.
Alex Smith is paid like an elite quarterback, although he plays like one only occasionally. Smith is the league’s 20th-rated passer with a modest eight touchdown passes for the Chiefs (2-3) and their grinding offense.
What is intriguing about Smith is his ability to make plays on the run, and he gets support from the No. 4-ranked rushing attack (137.6 yards per game) led by Knile Davis and Jamaal Charles.
The Kansas City defense was good enough to slow Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick in recent weeks, and maybe it can control Rivers just enough to cover the number. In the AFC West rivals’ meetings last year, the Chargers won by a field goal both times.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid has a couple of things going for him, as well. Reid is 10-1 ATS as a road ’dog since last season, covering at Denver, Miami and San Francisco this season. (The Chiefs pushed against the closing line in a 22-17 loss to the 49ers on Oct. 5, but they were getting six points for most of that week.)
Kansas City also is a rested team, and Reid in his career is 16-2 straight up and 13-5 ATS off a bye. Whatever he does during the week off is working, and it must not be lounging on the couch eating pizza and drinking beer. He surely studied film of Rivers and found ways to attack the San Diego defense.
I should have taken a bye last week.
Four more plays for Week 7 (home team in CAPS):
■ COLTS (-3) over Bengals: The so-called sharp guys frequently bet against the Colts, who just continue to cover. Indianapolis is 5-1 ATS this season and 9-2 in its past 11 games. Cincinnati was exposed by allowing 80 points in its past two games to the Patriots and Panthers. The Bengals’ defense is banged up, and wideout A.J. Green is doubtful. I’ll count on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to make more plays than Andy Dalton.
■ JAGUARS (+5½) over Browns: Maybe this is a crazy idea, but Jacksonville (0-6 straight up, 1-5 ATS) has a legitimate shot to win this game. Cleveland is facing a flat spot after blowing out Pittsburgh to get a rare win in that rivalry. he Jaguars, who won at Cleveland last year, eventually will break through behind rookie quarterback Blake Bortles.
■ Saints (+2½) over LIONS: When this line was at 3 two days ago, it was a more attractive play, but I’ll still back New Orleans because it has significant edges with coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees. The Saints are 1-10 ATS on the road since last season. This game is indoors, however, and the spot is right for the ’dog off a bye. Detroit’s offense is nowhere near as dangerous without wideout Calvin Johnson, who missed practice Friday and is doubtful to play.
■ Giants (+6½) over COWBOYS: Obviously, Eli Manning and the Giants were awful last week. The Cowboys were awesome in their win at Seattle. It’s not logical, but look for the roles to reverse. The Giants were winners in four of their past five trips to Dallas. This line should hit 7.
Last week: 0-4-1 against the spread
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.