The Buffalo Bills resuscitated their Super Bowl hopes with back-to-back gut-check wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys. Now, they look to keep on rolling as massive favourites on Saturday night at 8 p.m. against a team that, just a week ago, fired its coach and general manager after an embarrassing loss.
The Los Angeles Chargers dumped Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco in the immediate aftermath of a 63-21 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. It was the team’s first in-season coaching change in nearly a quarter of a century. The Chargers, playing without quarterback Justin Herbert and star receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, have lost five of their last six games and the one win was a 6-0 victory over the New England Patriots.
The Bills suddenly are playing like contenders again, with three wins in their last four games and the bookmakers are showing their respect by installing them as 12.5-point road favourites in this one.
Bills vs. Chargers odds
|Billss Moneyline Odds
|Chargers Moneyline Odds
|44 points (over -110, under -110)
|Dec. 23, 8:00 p.m. ET
About the Bills (8-6 SU, 6-7-1 ATS, 4-10 o/u)
Since dumping offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey in favour of Joe Brady, the Bills have revolutionized their approach to moving the football. For the first time in the Josh Allen era, they have crystallized a reliable run game.
The beneficiary has been second-year running back James Cook, who has produced at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his last five games, including 221 – including 179 on the ground – in last week’s 31-10 blowout of the Cowboys in Orchard Park, New York.
Cook was averaging 14 touches and 83.7 yards from scrimmage per game in 10 games under Dorsey. In four games under Brady, he has averaged 21 touches for 141 yards.
As a result, the Bills are showing true balance, with the No. 8 passing offence and the No. 6 rushing offence in the NFL.
The Bills’ defence, too, has found its stride after staggering for several weeks after the losses of linebacker Matt Milano and cornerback Tre’Davious White. This unit held a high-flying Dallas attack to an average of 3.4 yards per play and held the Cowboys to one touchdown despite forcing just one turnover. The Bills have the No. 4 scoring defence in the NFL.
They’ll have to prove they can perform better away from Highmark Stadium. The Bills have lost five of their seven games, including a London game that qualified as a home game, outside of western New York this season.
About the Chargers (5-9 SU, 4-9-1 ATS, 4-10 o/u)
This game will get out of hand if quarterback Easton Stick doesn’t do a better job of protecting the ball than he did against the Raiders, who recovered two of his fumbles and took back an interception for a touchdown last week. The Chargers also haven’t been able to establish a run game, with Austin Ekeler held to an average of just 2.8 yards per carry over his last four games.
Stick managed to throw for 257 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start, but most of that came after the Raiders had built a six-touchdown first-half lead.
The Chargers have a talented roster, however, and they’re hoping for a bump since firing Staley and replacing him with interim coach Giff Smith.
He’ll need to fix the defence. The Chargers rank 18th against the run, with opponents averaging 113.9 yards rushing per game against them. Now without start edge rusher Joey Bosa, the Chargers have been even worse against the pass, ranking 30th while allowing an average of 261.4 yards passing.
The Bills will no doubt key on edge rusher Khalil Mack, who has 15 sacks and five forced fumbles, but didn’t get to Raiders QB Aiden O’Connell last week.
Despite Cook’s emergence over the past four weeks, Buffalo will find plenty of reason to let Allen take over this game. The Chargers have looked helpless against decent quarterbacks despite an impressive pass rush that has seen them pile up 44 sacks.
Aside from cornerback Asante Samuel, the Chargers have one of the worst defensive secondaries in football. The opposite CB, Michael Davis, has been responsible for nine passing TDs while allowing a passer rating of 122.8. Not surprisingly, opposing OCs are picking on Davis relentlessly. He has been targeted an average of once every 5.4 coverage snaps. Safety Derwin James also has been disappointing, allowing a completion percentage of 74.5 in his coverage responsibility.
While the Bills have turned their season around in part as a result of their new run-heavy identity, this is a week that would suggest they revert to the pass-happy approach that made them Super Bowl contenders in the first place.
Auston Ekeler over 38.5 receiving yards
The Bills will be without S Micah Hyde (neck) for a second straight week. They also won’t have DT Jordan Phillips (wrist), who was placed on injured reserve. DE A.J. Epenesa (ribs) is listed as questionable. Cook missed practice Wednesday because of an illness, but should be good to go in this one.
For the Chargers, Allen (heel) will miss his second straight game. DE Deane Leonard (heel) also won’t suit up.
Temperatures will be a bit nippy in Southern California Saturday night, with a kickoff temperature of about 13 C, but it will be pleasant under the roof at SoFi Stadium.
- The Chargers have not scored a first-half touchdown in their past four games.
- They have not scored points of any kind in the first half of their last two games.
- These teams are tied for the NFL lead in most unders hit this season (10), joining the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers.
Player Prop Trends
- Allen has rushed for a touchdown in three straight games and seven of his past eight.
- He has thrown for a touchdown in 22 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
- Ekeler may have had just nine yards on five carries last week, but that was largely a product of the lopsided score. The new coaches likely will get him involved more, shedding a positive light on his 38.5 rushing yard total in this one (at -110).
Wagers To Consider
- Teams are difficult to predict following a coaching change of this magnitude and some embarrassing stories have leaked about Staley’s tenure since the move was made. Given the Bills’ road woes this season, it’s tough to lay that many points, while the Chargers should be intent on proving to the new staff and front office that they’re not as bad as last week’s result suggests. Consider taking the points on the home ‘dog in this one.
- Expect Ekeler to have his best game in a month or so and consider taking overs on both his rushing and receiving (28.5 at -110) totals.