The surging Los Angeles Chargers are part of a three-way tie in the AFC West at 6-6, so every game has tremendous amounts of importance. That isn’t really the case for the Washington Redskins, who can do no better than 9-7 and are three games out of the playoff picture. An injury-plagued season during the final year with Kirk Cousins isn’t what Washington was hoping for, but bettors seem rather bullish on their chances to cover the number this week. The Chargers opened touchdown chalk, but this number is down to 6 across most of the market, including with our friends at MyBookie.
The Redskins are 5-7 straight up and 5-7 against the number coming off of a disappointing loss to the Cowboys. Washington played better than the 38-14 result would suggest, but going -4 in the turnover department was an obvious kiss of death. Washington has extra prep time here. Washington started 3-2, but it has been downhill from there, with injuries mostly to blame. The Chargers are on a nice little run with a 6-2 record over their last eight games. After starting 0-3-1 against the spread, Los Angeles has covered six of its last eight. The Chargers did fail to cover last week against Cleveland, but that was as a double-digit favorite and they badly outgained the Browns in the 19-10 win.
Even with extra prep time, the Redskins injury report doesn’t look all that great. One of the biggest issues for Washington is that guys like Jordan Reed and Terrelle Pryor have gotten hurt when the team was going to have a hard time replacing guys like DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to begin with. The biggest injury remains Chris Thompson, who was among the team’s leading receivers when he went down for the season. Another key loss was OC Sean McVay, who is doing a great job as the Rams head coach. Kirk Cousins is having a solid season with a 66.6 percent completion rate and a 21/8 TD/INT ratio. Cousins has been sacked 35 times, though, as he has waited for his receivers to create separation. Jamison Crowder has been the only true WR to do that, with 51 grabs on 79 targets, but he has only averaged 12.3 yards per catch. That’s why the loss of Thompson was so big. He had 13.1 yards per catch and was also the team’s most effective running back with 4.6 yards per carry. Josh Doctson has created some big plays, but has also had some costly drops. The Redskins average 5.5 yards per play, which is tied for 11th, but an average offense and an average defense don’t add up to much.
The Redskins haven’t had as many defensive injuries as they have had offensive injuries, so the fact that the defense hasn’t played better than this is a little bit of a concern. The Redskins rank tied for 18th in yards per play allowed with 5.4. They have 16 takeaways on the season, including 12 interceptions. This defense rates average in most passing defense categories, including sack percentage, adjusted net yards per pass attempt, and completion percentage against. The Redskins are in the bottom third of the league in defending the run, but that may not be a huge problem in this game because the Chargers have a lot of problems running the football. Red zone defense has been an issue for the Redskins, as they have allowed a touchdown on 25 of 39 red zone trips for the opposition.
That is going to be the deciding factor in this game. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and quarterback Philip Rivers seem to be on the right page, so the Chargers are moving the football. The problem is that they are settling for three points instead of getting seven points. Los Angeles is just 4-of-14 on red zone trips over the last three games, and that includes a 54-point effort against the Buffalo Bills. The Chargers have moved up to sixth in yards per play at 5.8 and have only turned the ball over 10 times this season, but they were on the wrong side of variance early in the season and are threatening to fall victim to that again if they cannot get some more things going inside the 20. The Chargers have racked up a total 1,373 yards over the last three games and have passed for 1,052 in that span. Philip Rivers was hobbled by what looked like a possible Achilles injury in the win over Cleveland, so that merits watching as the week goes along. Keenan Allen seems like an un-coverable weapon with 77 grabs for 1,032 yards. The Redskins secondary will have their hands full with him.
Have the Chargers actually made adjustments to stopping the run or has the fact that they have been able to play from in front in each of the last two games been the key factor? Los Angeles has one of the best pass rushes in the NFL with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram wreaking havoc on the edges. As such, along with a really talented secondary, the Chargers are third in adjusted net yards per pass attempt allowed, trailing only Jacksonville and Baltimore. The Chargers have more interceptions (15) than passing touchdowns allowed (13). However, they have had major issues stopping the run. Only the Patriots have allowed more yards per carry. Overall, the Chargers defense has allowed 5.2 yards per play this season, which ranks tied for 13th. The last two weeks, the Cowboys had only 79 rushing yards and the Browns had only 89 rushing yards, but both teams trailed early and had to throw the ball. The Bills had 173 three weeks ago, but lost badly because of six turnovers.
Free NFL Pick: Washington Redskins +6
The Chargers are +10 in turnover margin over the last three weeks to climb back into this thing. For all of the problems that the Redskins have, turnovers are not one of them. If Washington is invested to go cross-country and play what amounts to a meaningless game for them, a cover is certainly possible. Because we have to guess on that part, this is probably a game to avoid, but the numbers guys have spoken and their thought process appears to be pretty sound.