Three days after Monday Night Football served up a tasty Week 14 NFC showdown between Los Angeles and Arizona, Thursday Night Football offers the AFC’s marquee game of Week 15.
This one is big. The winner of the game likely wins the AFC West and gets an all-important home playoff game. Like most of the NFL, both teams have been hit with Covid. LA left tackle Rashawn Slater will miss the game while the Chiefs top D-Lineman Chris Jones will be unavailable for the same reason. I kind of consider the loss a wash between both teams. Both teams are coming off relatively easy home wins; Los Angeles cruised to a home victory against New York while Kansas City annihilated Las Vegas (sorry about that pick guys).
Without further to do here, here’s our little breakdown and our bets for this game - with odds provided by our partners at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Thursday Night Football
Kansas City at Los Angeles
Spread: Kansas City (-3)
When Kansas City has the ball:
Patrick Mahomes has been average, but Kansas City's offense has been humming: Mahomes has thrown just two touchdowns over the past three games, yet KC is averaging nearly 30 points over that stretch. Kansas City’s overall success rate has also blossomed to above 56 percent and they have been the best team in the NFL on third down. This is going to be a very tough test for the KC passing offense.
LA has one of the best defenses in football allowing just 207.3 passing yards per contest and they rank ninth overall in pass defense DVOA. They are also allowing just 5.8 yards per attempt and have 10 interceptions. Mahomes had two interceptions against LAC in their matchup in Arrowhead. Andy Reid will have to deploy more of a run game. KC has run the ball at the fifth lowest rate in the league. But they will have to use the ground game to take advantage of an LA run defense that ranks 32nd in rush DVOA. We will get to see how disciplined Mahomes has become, or if he will revert back to old habits by hunting the deep play. If KC tries to bite off more than they can chew, LA’s defense will be able to take advantage of some mistakes.
When Los Angeles has the ball:
These two, star quarterbacks have been great and are the reason we will be tuning in, but they will have some challenges tonight. Justin Herbert has not been great against pressure, (19th ranked PFF Grade). He is missing his rookie left tackle Rashawn Slater, who has been one of the best linemen in all of football. While the Kansas City defense was porous to begin the season, they have started to
turn it around. They have 13 interceptions on the year and are limiting wideouts to a 62 percent catch rate. Herbert has thrown 11 interceptions in 13 games.
Like KC, LA will have a major advantage on the ground. KC ranks in the bottom 20 in rushing success rate and ranks 20th in rushing DVOA. Teams haven’t been able to take advantage of that, since Kansas City has done a great job of building early leads. Austin Ekeler will be limited, but LA offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi will need to trust back up Joshua Kelley and Justin Jackson to get the job done.
While Kansas City has been able to limit receivers, they have given up tons of yardage through the air (87-754-2). Ekeler is one of the best receiving backs the game has, so that is a big matchup to watch. Also expect LA to use tight ends Jared Cook and Donald Parham as chip blockers and outlets for Herbert. He will be facing pressure with former Charger Melvin Ingram coming off the edge.
Kicking is for Losers:
Brandon Staley has gone for it on 4th down at a higher percentage than any NFL coach in history at this point. That’s not a secret, and he does it because he has to. LA is converting 61 percent of its fourth down conversion attempts and 45 percent of its third down conversion attempts. The team that kicks the ball less, is going to win this game. LAC signed kicker Dustin Hopkins less than two months ago, releasing Tristan Vizcaino after he missed five extra points in the team's first six games. But Hopkins has missed two in his own right, including one against the Eagles.
On the other side, Kansas City former pro kicker Harrison Butker has also struggled missing wo PATs in just the last three weeks and is 20-for-23 on field goals this year. It will be interesting to see if LA can get KC off the field on big third downs. Staley's club ranks last in the NFL in third down percentage defense while KC ranks fourth in third down offense. I have a feeling this game will come down to just one or two plays.
The pick: Los Angeles (+3)
I have to admit this will be bias coming from an LA fan. I just see this game coming down to the wire and I’m comfortable taking the three here. There isn’t a huge drop-off between Mahomes and Herbert, and in my mind these teams are pretty close to even. One or two turnovers decide the game, and I can see LA making one or two plays to get a huge home win. LA's defense matches up well with the Kansas City offense, make sure to keep track of last-minute injury reports to check if defensive star Derwin James is in the lineup.
Props: Jared Cook over 2.5 receptions:
I think LA is going to play a lot of two tight end sets. Cook will be used to chip Kansas City's defensive linemen before releasing to the flat. KC does a great job of locking up receivers on the outside, so Cook should be open to catch a few check downs.
Patrick Mahomes over 17.5 rushing yards:
Mahomes will be running for his life, and LAC has struggled to keep contain at times. Mahomes had over 45 rushing yards in the first matchup, and I think he goes well over here.
Tyreek Hill anytime TD (-110)
Austin Ekeler any time TD scorer (-150)
Donald Parham first TD +3500 and anytime TD Scorer (+450)
First TD Darrell WIlliams (+1300)
First TD Scorer Mike Williams (+1200)
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @AMontgomeryLive
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