Week 11 America’s Game of the Week Preview: Buffalo Bills vs. Los Angeles Chargers Betting Advice

By Peter Brooks in Sports
| November 16, 2017 12:00 am PST
bills-vs-chargers

On the Week 11 edition of America’s Game of the Week, the national TV audience is not going to see two teams match up so much as they’re going to see two coaches: It’s the Buffalo Bills and the Los Angeles Chargers, two teams that have struggled with coaching for years now.

On the side of the Chargers, the primary issue over these last two seasons has been finishing games.

Last year, especially in the first half of the season, the Chargers seemed to have just incredibly bad luck. But as the season wore on and they kept losing close games (for a total of five losses by 4 points or less), it began to seem less like bad luck and more like bad coaching. The Browns were 1–15 last year: Their one win? Against the Chargers.

But then this season, despite changing their head coach and moving to a new city, the Chargers have already lost four of their nine games by 3 points or less.

  • Who: Buffalo Bills (5–4) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (3–6)
  • Where: StubHub Center Carson, California
  • When: Sunday, November 19, 2017 4:05 PM (EST) on FOX

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills and their new head coach Sean McDermott took the league by storm in the early going this season, trading away key players in an effort to build a strong, winning culture in Buffalo. And with the success they had with the turnover ratio, it seemed to be working.

But now, after only a two-game losing streak, McDermott went after his offense by benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman.

This strange and unanticipated move has thrown the league for a loop. But I’ve got you covered below with the inside scoop, and any additional information you’ll need to know about the following bets:

  • Moneyline bets
  • Bets against the spread
  • The total score over/under bet
  • Any prop bets or futures that could hold value

Some games are about players, and some games are about coaches. This Week 11 matchup is the latter.

Bills vs. Chargers Betting

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FootballMoneyLine
  • Bills +175
  • Chargers -210

In picking games straight-up for moneyline odds, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the two teams match up holistically, in order to determine which team has the mental advantage.

In my experience, whichever team is able to maintain its mental toughness for the entire 60-minute contest generally ends up winning the game. On the other hand, if a team loses focus, the momentum can shift to the other side and the team can start making mental mistakes like penalties, drops, miscommunications, and a whole host of others. The game spirals out of control and ends in a loss.

Usually, I look at which team is playing at home to assign a mental advantage. But not in this game.

Excepting all of the games that the Browns have participated in, this could be the least well-attended game in the entire league so far. The Chargers have yet to excite any sort of a fan following since moving to Los Angeles, and Philip Rivers might be the only person in the stadium who still commutes from San Diego to attend the Chargers’ home games.

And with Bills’ fans loathe to travel 2,500 miles across the country this close to the holidays, I’m envisioning empty seats and a quiet, sunny game in L.A.

The much bigger mental factor in this game, as I introduced above, is coaching. Buffalo suffered by far its worst loss of the year last week in a 47–10 blowout to the New Orleans Saints. This is the kind of loss that merits a swift and serious response from the head coach if he’s going to stave off a negative spiral. But even though McDermott has been bulletproof this season, his response perplexes me.

I could see benching your struggling QB if you had a competent backup ready to roll. But switching to a rookie when you’re still in the playoff hunt is ludicrous.

Meanwhile, the Chargers are coming off a particularly excruciating loss of their own. In typical Chargers fashion, they were up 17–14 last week over the Jags with a 1:33 left in the game, and then picked off Blake Bortles with 1:20 left. Tre Boston picked off the pass and then went out of bounds, celebrating like they had just won the game. And in fact, they did have a 95% chance of winning at that point.

The fact that the Chargers ended up losing last week is inexcusable. They should be 8–1 right now.

Both of these teams can’t really come from behind: This season, the Bills haven’t really won their games; the other team has lost them. By controlling the turnover ratio, they’ve squeaked out close ones. And by all accounts, the Chargers seem hell-bent to give away as many games as they can.

But ultimately, I have to go with the veteran QB at home against the rookie QB in his first start on the road. There’s no way that Peterman (and the strange locker room vibe he represents) doesn’t lose this.

Pick: Chargers to win

FootballSpread
  • Bills +4 (-105)
  • Chargers -4 (-115)

Now that I’ve made my pick for the Chargers to win this game at home because the Bills are inexplicably starting a rookie quarterback in his first career game, it’s now time to ask the question of whether the Chargers will win by more than 4 points.

In picking games against the spread, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s offense matches up against the losing team’s defense.

In my experience, when a team is both able to stay mentally tough enough to win and also able to score points on offense, they’ll generally be able to both win the game straight-up and against the spread. On the other hand, if the losing team can generate stops, they’ll generally be able to cover.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the ATS bet is between the Chargers’ offense and the Bills’ defense.

The big story for the Bills’ defense these past few weeks has been their run defense. Believe it or not, the Buffalo Bills were ranked #3 in the league in rushing defense less than a month ago. Now they’ve given up almost 500 rush yards over the past two weeks alone.

Buffalo was especially gashed last week by the New Orleans Saints, who notched a combined 298 yards on the ground thanks in large part to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

If Sean McDermott should have benched anyone, it should have been someone on the run defense, not his quarterback and team leader Tyrod Taylor.

We should point out that Philip Rivers is in the concussion protocol after self-reporting symptoms last game, but at this point, he is listed as “probable” on the injury report, and he’s likely to play.

Either way though, with the way that the Bills’ run defense has played over the last two weeks, I’d take the Chargers to run the ball all over Buffalo no matter who’s at quarterback. Not only is Melvin Gordon top 10 in the league in rush yards so far this season, with 553 yards and 4 touchdowns on 147 attempts, but undrafted rookie Austin Ekeler has also leaped into the fray.

Ekeler received double-digit carries for the first time last week against the Jaguars, and now through 6 games played he has 124 yards on 25 carries, for an impressive 5.0 yards per carry average.

The benching of Tyrod Taylor utterly perplexes me, and I strongly believe that the culture of the Buffalo Bills’ locker room has been rocked by the announcement. I can’t imagine that the Bills’ defenders feel any differently than I do, and I see them getting dominated in the trenches in this game.

I like the Bills to get gashed in the run game and for Los Angeles to score plenty of points.

Pick: Chargers to win by more than 4

FootballTotal Score
  • Over 43.5 (-110)
  • Under 43.5 (-110)

Now that I’ve made my pick for the Los Angeles Chargers to win this game at home because of the weird culture shock following the benching of Tyrod Taylor, and for the Chargers to be able to run the ball all over Buffalo’s struggling run D, it’s now time to consider whether this will be a high- or low-scoring game.

When picking games for the total score over/under bet, my philosophy involves taking a look at the way that the winning team’s defense matches up against the losing team’s offense.

In my experience, when a team is able to score enough points to win against the spread and to generate stops on defense, they’ll generally be able to control the flow and timing of the game to such a degree that the total score will go under. But on the other hand, if the losing team can also score points, the game can turn into a shootout that pushes the total score over.

In this game, the matchup to watch for the total score over/under is L.A.’s defense vs. Buffalo’s offense.

The big story for the Bills’ offense was the reason why Tyrod Taylor got benched: Buffalo has been terrible in passing offense. They’re ranked 19th in scoring (20.4 points per game), 28th in total offense (292 yards per game), and 30th in pass yards (180.4 yards per game).

For this reason, head coach Sean McDermott felt that the way to turn things around was by benching his starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and installing rookie Nathan Peterman, who saw his first live NFL game action at the end of the blowout loss to the Saints last week.

In my opinion, Sean McDermott should have done the opposite and instead doubled down on the fact that his Bills can’t pass the ball, just like the Jaguars have done.

In my mind, the bigger issue in this game, Peterman’s first start, isn’t whether the rookie will be able to stimulate the passing game; it’s whether Buffalo will still be able to run the ball.

Even if you grant that Tyrod Taylor wasn’t getting it done in the passing game, you still have to acknowledge the fact that his ability to scramble and to run the read-option was a key part of Buffalo’s offense, and one of the major reasons why they were so effective in the run game. If you think the Bills are running the read-option with Nathan Peterman, you’re out of your mind.

And let’s not forget that the Bills started a rookie at left tackle for the first time last week.

I foresee a lot of issues with the Bills offense. I think that Peterman is going to get rattled early by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who have an incredible 18 sacks between them this season. I think Buffalo will struggle to move the ball on offense, will score few points, and for this reason, I advise taking the under.

Pick: Chargers 24, Bills 9

FootballProp Bets

Now that I’ve established my overall prediction for the game, it’s time to check out some prop bets that will offer value based on this prediction. Specifically, I advise wagering on the following prop bets:

  • Melvin Gordon to go over his posted total for The Bills have allowed almost 500 rushing yards over the last 2 games alone, and the Chargers know it. Look for them to pound the ball on the ground with Melvin Gordon, and for the third-year back to gain a whole mess of yards.
  • Total number of interceptions in the game to go over. Phil Rivers is known to throw picks, and Micah Hyde is #2 in the league in INTs; Buffalo is playing a rookie quarterback in his first NFL start, and Casey Hayward led the league in INTs last year. I’m envisioning plenty of picks.
  • Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to go over their posted total for sacks. Undoubtedly Sean McDermott is going to design a rookie-friendly game plan for Peterman, but when Buffalo has to start throwing the ball to catch up, I see the rookie QB to get rattled, and to get sacked.

In addition to the live props above, I also recommend checking out the following future bets:

  • The Buffalo Bills to miss the playoffs. While the Bills looked like a strong contender to take one of the two Wild Card spots in the weak AFC in the first two months of the season, benching your starting quarterback is a massive step in the wrong direction. I think Buffalo’s in a tailspin.
  • Anthony Lynn for First Coach Fired. Rookie head coaches are fired more often than any other level of experience – a sort of institutional version of buyer’s remorse. The Chargers hired Lynn to win close games, and he has failed to accomplish this. I think they go back to the well.
  • The Los Angeles Chargers to go under their posted win total. The Chargers opened this offseason with their win total line at 7.5, with gamblers optimistic about how their offense looked on paper. But they still have the identity of giving away close games. They end up at 7–9.

It’s not enough to just bet on individual games. When you watch this game on Sunday, look for clues that will tip you off for the futures above, and thank me later.

Summary: Best Bets

In the Week 11 edition of America’s Game of the Week, we’ll see not so much the battle of two teams so much as the battle of two coaches. The Chargers’ Anthony Lynn has been under fire for already losing four games this season by 3 points or less, and the Bills’ Sean McDermott just benched his starting quarterback for a rookie despite still being firmly in the playoff hunt.

I see both these struggling coaches as just dying to give the game away, and whichever team takes the lead early will probably win. I’m picking the Chargers to take that early lead, because of how bad Nathan Peterman is likely to be in his first start. The Bills’ defense has allowed almost 500 rush yards over the last two games, and they won’t be able to move the ball on the ground without Tyrod.

In order to profit off of this view of the game, here are my best bets:

  • Chargers -210 moneyline
  • Chargers -4 against the spread (-115)
  • The total score to go under 43.5 (-110)
  • Melvin Gordon to go over his posted total for yards
  • Total number of interceptions in the game to go over
  • Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to go over their posted total for sacks

Sometimes, the matchup to watch in a game is between two marquee players. But in this game, I’ll be watching to see which coach can turn things around.

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