Week 2 of the NFL season opens on Thursday night with an electric matchup featuring two of the league's most feared quarterbacks. Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes lead their high-powered offenses into an AFC shootout that will give the winner an early lead in the highly competitive AFC West.
Bettors expect plenty of scoring and have already pushed the total two points north of the opening number. Despite our internal voices pleading for us not to overreact to last week's results, Kansas City's 44-point outburst is very difficult to ignore. The offense didn't appear to miss former WR Tyreek Hill, and the early line movement shows bettors are investing in a repeat on Thursday night. Kansas City opened as 3-point favorites and immediately moved past the key number to 4.5 before seeing resistance from Chargers backers. Is the strong support for Kansas City warranted? Let's run down my best bets on the side and total, plus a juicy alternative to the moneyline and a parlay option that pays out at +2000 odds.
It's easy to get excited about two high-octane offenses with elite quarterbacks and aggressive head coaches. In their two meetings in 2021, both games ended with 54 and 56 total points at the end of regulation. So the number makes sense from that perspective, but it's also not last season. The pass rush is the best way to make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable, and L.A. made several upgrades to its front seven, including three-time first-team All-Pro Khalil Mack. In his debut with the Chargers, Mack graded out as the eighth-best edge defender in the league and the highest-rated defensive player for Los Angeles.
The Chiefs also flexed their own defensive improvements in their blowout win over the Cardinals. While Patrick Mahomes made all the highlights, the Kansas City defense made Kyle Murray miserable. Murray was held to 5.9 yards per passing attempt and 3-of-12 on third downs, where the Cardinals had only a 20% offensive success rate. With WR Keenan Allen out for the Chargers, and both defenses projected to be better this season, I think the under is the best way to attack this total. Kansas City's offense operated at the third-slowest pace last week, and the Chargers were only 10 spots higher. You can attribute the Chiefs' pace to the big lead they built up, but even in a neutral game script, both teams ranked only 14th and 15th.
I see this as a close, competitive game, and it wouldn't surprise me if either team uses clock management to ensure their quarterback has the ball last. Both these teams are very familiar with each other, and I'm confident the defenses will make some big plays to keep this one under the total of 54.
We have a divisional road dog catching more than a field goal early in the season. How can I say no to that? Outdated trends aside, I have been above market on the Chargers all offseason. I am not surprised I am betting them here at this number. I have Chargers alternate win totals, Super Bowl futures and Justin Herbert MVP tickets, so we are not backing down in mid-September.
I think the spread should be three. The Chiefs' impressive offensive output, combined with a sloppy performance by the Chargers, has added value to the underdog. I'm not trying to sell anyone that the Chiefs aren't going to be a good team, but dare I say it, the move past three appears to be an overreaction to what we saw on Sunday.
Are the Chiefs better after losing an elite playmaker in the offseason? Or is it possible Arizona is continuing the tailspin that sunk their season last year? The Cardinals' defense allowed 34 and 38 points in their final two games last season, so it's not surprising Mahomes had his way.
The last time these teams took the field, they needed overtime to decide the winner, despite Los Angeles missing three critical fourth downs in field goal range. I think the Chargers got better in the offseason, so I'd rather have the hook in my pocket in another coin-flip game.
L.A. Chargers - Margin of Victory 1-6 (+375)
The Chargers and Chiefs split last year's season series, each with a six-point victory. Everything points to another epic finish where Mahomes or Herbert are trading touchdowns until the final whistle. Last season, the Chargers led all NFL teams in fourth-quarter scoring by averaging 10.6 points per game. And they were actually better on the road. Neither of these elite quarterbacks will go down quietly, making a margin of victory of under six more attractive. If you are interested in playing the Chargers money line at +170, here is a way to extract some value from a game that's projected to be close.
Same-game parlay: Chargers +4.5, Under 54.5 and Patrick Mahomes anytime touchdown scorer (+2000)
Patrick Mahomes is not afraid to use his mobility, especially in high-leverage situations in the red zone. Considering the Chargers come into this game with a much-improved pass rush, I think Mahomes rushing props across the board make sense. He also has one less reliable red zone target without Tyreek Hill. If you are already with me on the Chargers and the under, let's take a small shot to hit this +2000 parlay.