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Chargers vs. Lions Week 16 NFL Pick
John J. Raspanti
The Chargers (7-7) looked like dead meat three weeks ago. Then, as they are prone to do late in the season, the team found themselves. They destroyed the lowly Jaguars 38-14, pummeled the Bills 37-10, and in something of a surprise, manhandled the Ravens last weekend 34-14. Though a long shot, they're still in the hunt for the playoffs.
Traveling to Detroit to play the Lions (9-5) will be their biggest challenge to date.
"It's a big game for us," defensive tackle Antonio Garay said.
Quarterback Phillip Rivers has improved his play significantly over the past three weeks. His completion percentage has increased to 63 percent. River's has 23 touchdowns on his resume this season. Ryan Matthews has rushed for over a 1,000 yards. The second year player has also caught 47 passes. River's likes to look for speedy wide receiver's Vincent Jackson, and Malcom Floyd. Tight end Antonio Gates has 55 catches and six touchdowns. The Charger defense burned the Ravens last week with seven sacks. Outside linebacker Anntwan Barnes had four of the sacks and now has 11 for the season. San Diego got interceptions from OLB Shaun Phillips and ILB Takeo Spikes.
The Lions nipped the Raiders in dramatic fashion last week 28-27. The win, coupled with a Chicago Bears loss, put the Lions one-step closer to a post-season berth. Quarterback Matthew Stafford drove the Lions 98 yards for the winning score. He calmly hit Calvin Johnson with 35 seconds left on the clock. The win was an unlikely one as Detroit trailed by 14 with seven minutes to go.
Stafford, in only his third full season, has thrown an astounding 33 touchdown passes. The Lion running game has been non-existent since losing Jahvid Best for the season. Kevin Smith has gained 267 yards at a clip of 5.7 a carry. Wide receiver Johnson has caught 81 balls and scored 14 touchdowns. He had nine catches for 214 yards against the Raiders. Nate Burleson has chipped in with 61 receptions. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is another of Stafford's favorite targets. The penalty prone Lion defense features middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch and outside linebacker Deandra Levy. Defensive end Cliff Avril has racked up 11 sacks. For all his publicity, Ndamukong Suh has only three sacks.
So we have to decide if we're going to handicap the Chargers based on their entire body of work this season, or whether we are going to handicap the Chargers based on the last 3 games. Up until the previous 3 games, the Chargers were 2-9 against the spread and had dropped six straight both straight up and against the number and have beaten the spread by 62 points in those 3 games! Considering 2 of the 3 games in this stretch for the Chargers were against the Bills and Jags, we'll choose to take the entire Chargers season into account.
The Lions have to be happy with last weeks come from behind win. It's the type of "no quit" performance you'd hope for as the season winds down and the team is fighting for it's playoff life. The Lions though, have given up 37, 35, 27, 31, 28 and 27 points in their last 6 games. Not exactly playoff numbers defensively and certainly not what you want to see going into a game with a team as hot as the Chargers.
This one looks like a shootout. In which case, we're going to side with the team that's gotten it done 9 times this year, playing at home. The Lions have been the more consistent team all year. Playing at home should be the difference in what figures to be a wild game. Lions -2.5 (* note that the Chargers are -5 in turnover margin while the Lions are +11)
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