San Diego Chargers (5-7 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (4-8 SU, 3-8-1 ATS)
Week 14 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 11, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: SD -1/CAR +1
Over/Under Total: 48.5
The San Diego Chargers take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday in week 14 action from Bank of America Stadium. The last week was unkind to both teams, as the Panthers and Chargers both saw their postseason hopes basically dashed with losses. Carolina was wrecked in a 40-7 rout at Seattle. The win drops the defending conference champs to 4-8. San Diego, meanwhile, couldn't thrive late in a game yet again, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 28-21, to fall to 5-7.
Going to 5-7 basically renders the Chargers postseason hopes moot. On the surface, one sees a 5-7 team. And their late-game collapses have been of an almost-unbelievable magnitude. Whenever a game is up-for-grabs late, hold onto your hats with the Chargers because things are about to get kooky. Against Tampa on Sunday, they took a lead three separate times and could not close escrow. On one hand, they are 5-7 for a reason and that speaks loudest. It's worth noting they were in all those games, with all seven of their defeats being by a one-score margin. In other words, they're competitive. They don't close strongly, but they don't get dominated, either.
The San Diego offense has gotten an untimely dip in form over the last few weeks from Philip Rivers. Usually, he's doing most everything right while the guys around him struggle. And to his credit, he has made the most of a thin cast to have 3353 yards passing. But with ten picks in the last five games and other miscues, he's been a bit of a detriment at times. It's not often you can say that. And it's not all his fault. The line has offered inconsistent production and the receiving crew, decimated by injuries, is a group that has answered the call while still being mistake-prone. Melvin Gordon has embraced the role of the top weapon with 12 touchdowns. He will surpass 1000 yards early on Sunday and has 41 catches for 419 yards this season through the air. On Sunday, Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams caught touchdown passes and have been key in taking on bigger roles this season.
The San Diego defense didn't have many bright spots on Sunday, especially with the game on the line. Joey Bosa, who had a sack and had been playing exceptionally, was a bit dicey on Sunday, as was Melvin Ingram, another key part of the San Diego defense. Casey Hayward registered his 7th interception of the season. But as is usually the case this season, when the game is in its critical stages, this side of the ball is more or less just "there." It's a group that has been hit hard by injuries and it would have been interesting to see how well they played if they had just suffered a normal number of injuries. But with so many key members of the defense sidelined, this unit was never really able to hit its stride.
Carolina looked like it might be springing to life a few weeks ago on the heels of three wins in four game, but two straight losses have the defending NFC champs in really bad shape. When you go from a Super Bowl appearance and are among the favorites again the following year and start 4-8, it can create a lot of mental drag. And we saw some of that in their 40-7 battering at the hands of the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. The Seahawks offense put up well over 500 yards and besides another Cam Newton connection to Ted Ginn, they got absolutely nowhere.
In a season where the Panthers haven't seen much go right, they got off to an awful start on Sunday. Cam Newton was benched for a dress code violation for just the opening play and naturally, Derek Anderson threw a pick. It's difficult to locate a part of the Carolina offense that hasn't taken a huge step back this season. Last season's MVP Newton has seen his form depreciate massively. It's not all his fault, but he doesn't get off the hook either with his uneven play, iffy decision-making, and negative overall demeanor. By now, we know about all the different pieces on this offense. Suffice to say it hasn't worked for the most part. Whatever mojo they had last season and in the last few years has all but evaporated this season The line is decimated by injuries and things are just really bad on this side of the ball.
The Carolina defense now ranks 27th in points allowed. After showing some energy a few weeks ago, they have given up 75 points in the last two weeks. Injuries have also impacted this side of the ball, with their top player Luke Kuechly out after a scary concussion a few weeks back. Kurt Coleman has missed time, as has end Mario Addison. Not to overblow the importance of Josh Norman, but something bad happened to this secondary since his departure and they're now among one of the worst in the league. They have been decent against the run this season, but they certainly didn't show it on Sunday night, as the Seahawks had their way on the ground.
These games can be tricky when both teams are on the heels of having to internalize the fact that their 2016 efforts have been for naught. It might be a mentally less-challenging element for San Diego, who is more accustomed to being in a game that is not building for a postseason case. It'd be nice to have a week to see if Carolina comes with any kind of edge, but I see a more energetic effort for the Chargers. I'm taking San Diego.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the San Diego Chargers plus one point. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Chargers vs. Panthers game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!