Chiefs vs Chargers Thursday Night Football Picks and Predictions: Bolts Test Chiefs in AFC West Clash

The Chiefs look more like their old dominant selves after six straight wins, but an inconsistent offense and key absences on defense lead us to favor Justin Herbert and the Chargers. Read more in our Thursday Night Football picks and predictions.

Andrew Caley - Senior Betting Analyst at Covers.com
Andrew Caley • Senior Betting Analyst
Dec 16, 2021 • 19:05 ET • 5 min read

Patience is a virtue, so they say.

Week after week, Thursday Night Football has served up a conveyor belt of underwhelming matchups to bet on in 2021. Finally, to kick off Week 15, we get a genuinely exciting matchup as the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Los Angeles Chargers in a huge AFC West showdown.

The Chiefs have won six in a row and are road favorites by about a field goal, give or take. Kansas City hasn't struck fear into the hearts of opponents as it once did, especially one like Justin Herbert, who has shone in prime time and has already beaten the Chiefs this season.

Check out our free NFL betting picks and predictions for Chiefs vs. Chargers on Thursday, December 16.

Chiefs vs Chargers odds

Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.

This AFC West matchup opened with the Chargers as 3.5-point home underdogs and moved to 4 pretty quickly. But the Chargers have seen some money since then, moving the line down to 3. The total hit the board at an even 50 but has since been bet up to 51.5.

Use the live odds widget above to track any future line movements right up until kickoff and be sure to check out the full NFL odds before placing your bets.

Chiefs vs Chargers predictions

Predictions made on 12/14/2021 at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.

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Chiefs vs Chargers game info

Location: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, CA
Date: Thursday, December 16, 2021
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, NFL NETWORK

Chiefs at Chargers betting preview

Weather

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Key injuries

Chiefs: Shane Buechele QB (Out), Kyle Long OL (Out), Prince Tega Wanogho OT (Out), L'Jaris Sneed CB (Out), Zayne Anderson DB (Out).
Chargers: Easton Stick QB (Out), Larry Rountree III RB (Out), Breiden Fehoko DE (Out), Asante Samuel Jr. CB (Out), Alohi Gilman S (Out). 

Find our latest NFL injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The road team is 15-5-1 in the last 21 meetings between the Chiefs and Chargers. Find more NFL betting trends for Chiefs vs. Chargers.

Chiefs vs Chargers picks and predictions

Our predictions are compiled from the analysis of the spread and total and are indications of where we are leaning for this game.
Our best bet is the play that we like the most for this game, which we would actually put some of our bankroll behind.

What a huge game. The winner will have the inside track to the AFC West crown. The Chiefs lead the Chargers by one game in the standings but a win by L.A. and they pull even while sweeping the season series. But easier said than done.

The Chiefs have won six games in a row, going 4-2 ATS, to re-establish themselves as legitimate Super Bowl contenders, culminating with a 48-9 destruction of the Las Vegas Raiders.

But maybe the most surprising part about it, is that it has happened because of the Chiefs’ defense. Kansas City is getting much more of a pass rush and in return causing turnovers and over the winning streak, the team has allowed just 311.7 yards per game and 10.6 points per game.

Unfortunately, one of their best defenders, defensive end Chris Jones has entered the NFL’s health and safety protocols for this week. So, keep an eye on his status leading up to the game.

Without Jones, the Chiefs could have a tough time containing Chargers QB Justin Herbert. The second-year-man out of Oregon looked fantastic in the Chargers 37-21 win over the New York Giants, and it always seems Herbert’s star shines the most when the lights are the brightest. 

In four primetime games Herbert has thrown for 1,182 yards, 12 touchdowns, and one interception while in three games against the Chiefs, he has tossed 894 yards with eight scores and one pick. That includes a strong performance in a 30-24 win at Kansas City back in late September.

Now, obviously, a lot has changed since then and the Chiefs are on a roll but former MVP Patrick Mahomes still needs to find a better rhythm when playing teams not called the Raiders. Outside of those performances against Las Vegas, Mahomes is averaging just 218.2 passing yards per game while completing just 57.1 percent of his passes with two TDs to four picks.

The return of Clyde Edwards-Helaire has helped and the Chiefs should lean on him against a suspect Chargers run defense. But the status of Jones and an inconsistent Chiefs offense has me leaning towards taking the points with Herbert as a home dog.

Prediction: Chargers +3.5 (-110)

Now, the trend in primetime games recently has been the Under, but this matchup has all the makings of a shootout.

While Mahomes and the Chiefs are likely still looking for some more consistency, this is still the fifth-ranked offense in terms of DVOA and they should be able to set up their play-action offense in this one. CEH has been at the very least, effective since his return. 

Now, he faces a Chargers' run defense that ranks dead last in DVOA. If Edwards-Helaire can create just enough on the ground, Mahomes should be able to attack the Chargers and their banged-up secondary down the field.

Meanwhile, Herbert is once again looking like the guy who was getting some early-season MVP buzz. Over his last six games (where the Chargers are 4-2), Herbert has thrown for 1,828 yards while completing 71.3 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns, compared to just five picks.

Plus, the balance the Chargers create with their running game could be a problem for a Chiefs defense, that while playing better, would be missing a huge piece if Jones can’t go, and they still rank a mediocre 17th in DVOA. 

Betting the Under in this matchup is like telling an eight-year-old there is no Santa. You are a monster. Bet the Over and enjoy the show.

Prediction: Over 51.5 (-110)

For starters, the Over will be one of our best bets in this game. The Over is 2-1 when Mahomes and Herbert face off, with an average of 52 points per game, and we’re expecting both quarterbacks to put on a bit of a show in this one. 

The quarterbacks aren’t the only ones who should shine in this one, as both starting running backs are primed for big games.

Clyde Edwards Helaire has brought some balance back to the Chiefs’ offense. The second-year back has gotten double-digit carries in all three of his games since returning from injury and now faces a Chargers defense that he rumbled for 100 yards against back in September and ranks dead last against the run per DVOA and 29th in yards per rush. CEH is a good bet to go Over his rushing total in this one.

But, that’s not all. Austin Ekeler should continue to be a huge weapon for Herbert out of the backfield. KC ranks 20th in DVOA against the run but the Chiefs have really struggled when it comes to giving up receiving yards out of the backfield, allowing the third-most receiving yards to running backs.

Ekeler has averaged 44.6 receiving yards per game over his last 12 contests and has topped 52 or more yards six times over that span, including 52 yards against the Chiefs. He’s a great bet to Over his receiving yards again.

Pick: Over 51.5 (-110)

Pick: Clyde Edwards-Helaire Over 52.5 rushing yards (-115)

Pick: Austin Ekeler Over 39.5 receiving yards (-110) 

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