LA Chargers: Game breakdown and prediction for Week 14 vs. Falcons

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers motions a play in the second quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at SoFi Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 06: Quarterback Justin Herbert #10 of the Los Angeles Chargers motions a play in the second quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at SoFi Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Chargers enter the final quarter of the season against the Atlanta Falcons.

We’re now in the red zone for the LA Chargers‘ 2020 season. This is when we’re going to know what the direction shall be for next year. Will they pack it in and play for the draft or will they fight to play spoiler?

I haven’t talked to you guys in a bit. The last time was Week 12 when the Bolts lost a heartbreaker to the Buffalo Bills. Since then, it’s been an understandable barrage of “Fire Anthony Lynn” and all that jazz for his glaring lapses in decision-making the past few weeks in particular.

Week 12, I had the Chargers losing but covering 4.5 points at the Bills, and by golly they should have! I, for one, thought the Bolts were dead in the water, but Justin Herbert fought back and had the offense at the goal line on the closing drive to cut into the lead and cover the 4.5 points.

Unfortunately, Anthony Lynn had some other plans with his play-calling and ended the abysmal goal line try with a designed quarterback run only to come up short. Bolts lose 27-17 and I lose the +4.5. Oh well.

Lynn had other plans for that drive, apparently. It’s also clear to me he had other plans for who his quarterback was going to be this year, but I digress.

Lynn’s probably gone at the end of the year and the Chargers are going to either have to bring in somebody great offensively (remember, offensive-minded head coaches with young quarterbacks is a pairing that works in today’s NFL), or what this team would be a better fit for which is a defensive head coach with proven success in this league.

Names have been thrown out there on this site by the very talented writing staff we have, but the best names out there I’ve heard are Jack Del Rio, who’s killing it in Washington right now and who knows the AFC West very well, and Robert Saleh from the Niners, though Saleh has a lot more connections to Michigan and fits pretty well with the Lions too.

Moving on to last week, I left you guys hanging but I nailed the game Patriots moneyline, Patriots -1, and under 47.5. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of Justin Herbert and this Chargers team, but there was no question who had the advantage in that matchup.

About as clear a coaching mismatch as we’ve seen in football this year and once again, the Bolts coaching staff was simply out-prepared and outworked by Bill Belichick and the Patriots staff. No shame in taking that on the chin if you’re Justin Hebert in my opinion. Justin will beat Belichick eventually.

Onto this week where we have a very winnable game for the Chargers, but at the same time, they play an opponent in the Atlanta Falcons who have a lot of history on their side as well as those good ole’ fashioned numbers I love bombarding you guys with.

From a moneyline perspective, the Falcons are 8-2 all-time vs. the Chargers as well as 6-1 in their last 7 meetings, and a whopping 6-0 all-time on the road against the Bolts.

If we look at overall cover percentages, the Falcons have covered 2.5 points in 5 of their 8 victories over the Bolts (63%). When we compare that to the rest of the slate this week, Atlanta ranks 10th among 16 favorites. In the past 4 weeks, the 10th ranked favorite in this category has covered their win 2/4 times. So, not necessarily bad news for LA.

Now if we look at cover percentages in regards to the location of the game, Atlanta has covered 2.5 points in 5 of their 6 wins on the road at the Chargers (83%). Compare that to the rest of the slate and we have the Falcons ranked 8th of 16 favorites. In the past 4 weeks, the 8th ranked favorite has covered their win in 2/4 of those weeks. Again, good news for the Chargers.

If we average both of those rankings, the Falcons wind up being the 9th most likely favorite to cover this week. In the past 4 weeks, the 9th most likely favorite to cover has done so in……wait for it…….2 of 4 weeks. Yet again, we have good news for the Chargers.

So, I’m extremely tempted to, at the very least, split this game Atlanta in the outright and LA in the spread since it’s been proven to not be out of the realm of possibility that Atlanta wins by less than 2.5 points in this matchup.

However, this is where I need to lean more Atlanta for an outright and cover. First and foremost, Matt Ryan has played the Bolts 3 times. He has a 71% completion percentage, 755 passing yards, 6 touchdowns to 2 interceptions, and a passer rating of 105.8, his second-best passer rating against all 31 teams he’s faced.

Yes, no Julio Jones this week, but the Falcons still have the 7-best passing game in the league and if we look at how they’ve been playing in the past 7 games, they are 4-3 after starting out 0-5, so a lot better down the stretch and that’s including two matchups with that Saint defense mixed in there.

Secondly, if we look at their win/loss record, they have not lost 2-straight games since their 4th and 5th games of the season and they just lost last week to New Orleans.

Thirdly, in cover opportunities, the Falcons have not lost 2-straight covers since that same 4th and 5th game period I mentioned. They just lost against the spread last week, so this week (if history replays itself) should be a win for them against the spread. And obviously, if they win against the spread this week, they win the game outright.

So, I’m still a little hesitant to do so because they’re 1-3 against the spread as favorites this year, but I’m going to go Falcons win this game 30-26 and cover 2.5 points.

That just leaves the over 49.5. The numbers say the game goes under.

2 of 10 overall games between these two teams have gone over 49.5 points (20%). That 20% ranks as 12th of 16 games this week. The 12th place game in that category went over in 2/4 of the past 4 weeks.

1 of 6 games between these two teams, when the Chargers are the home team, went over 49.5 as well (17%). That 17% ranks as 13th of 16 games. In the past 4 weeks, The 13th ranked game in that category went over in 1/4.

When we combine those two rankings, this game comes up as the 13th most likely to go over, and in the past 4 weeks the 13th ranked game has gone over zero out of 4 times.

However, Atlanta’s defense is just the defense for Justin Herbert to have a bounce-back game against after his zero-point debacle against the Pats. The numbers lean towards the under, but they are also a bit scattered, so I see this game as a tossup from an over/under standpoint.

Next. 5 free agents the Bolts cannot let walk

I think Herbert is going to keep the Chargers in this game and could even win it if a few things go his way. So, give me 30-26 Falcons. I like the over 49.5 to be hit because Herbert is going to have a good game, and I think the Falcons just hit the cover by the skin of their teeth.