The Los Angeles Chargers haven't faced a rookie quarterback in Week 1 of a season since 1993 when they beat Rick Mirer and the Seattle Seahawks. However, that "drought" will end Sunday when they visit the Cincinnati Bengals and No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow, the Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite. It will be veteran journeyman Tyrod Taylor over rookie No. 6 overall pick Justin Herbert at QB for L.A. which is a 3-point favorite on the NFL odds.
The Bolts catch two breaks in that opener: The game is at 4:05 p.m. ET instead of 1 p.m. and L.A. gets to visit Cincinnati when the weather is still nice instead of in the winter. Los Angeles is 5-1-2 ATS in its past seven openers but has covered only one of its previous nine games overall vs. AFC opponents.
Los Angeles plays its first game that counts in the new $5 billion-plus SoFi Stadium the next week against the four-time AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs. Perhaps the Chargers will actually enjoy home-field advantage now because they sure didn't have it when playing in that soccer stadium in Carson, Calif. Oddly, it will be the fourth different venue in which the Chargers and Chiefs will have played since 2018 (Dignity Health Sports Park, Arrowhead Stadium and Estadio Azteca in Mexico). There will be no fans at L.A. home games, though.
The Chargers are probably looking at three cold-weather games: Week 11 in Denver, Week 12 in Buffalo and Week 17 in Kansas City. Weeks 6-9 ahead looks like the softest part of the schedule with home games vs. the Jets, Jaguars and Raiders and a trip to Miami.
Last year, the Chargers were favored in their first six games, but they won just two of those and were 1-5 ATS, beating the Dolphins 30-10 as 15-point favorites. They were underdogs in the next three, going 2-1 SU and ATS, before losing six of their last seven, only covering the spread in a 45-10 victory against the Jaguars. The Over was 5-2 in those seven games as the defense allowed more than 25 points per game over that stretch.
Quarterback Philip Rivers put up decent numbers overall, but he threw 20 interceptions, including seven in the red zone. He also fumbled eight times and was sacked 34 times behind an offensive line that was decimated by injury. But that line was bolstered by the addition of Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga, so Taylor or Herbert should be better protected. Of course, Rivers left for the Colts in free agency. No. 2 receiver Mike Williams is in question for Week 1 with a sprained shoulder.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS BETTING PROFILE
2019 record: 5-11 (last, AFC West)
2019 against the spread: 4-9-3 ATS
2019 ATS margin: -2.0
2019 Over-Under: 7-9 O-U
2020 strength of schedule: 23rd-toughest; Chargers opponents combined for a .492 winning percentage last year (126-130).
WILLIAM HILL 2020 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS FUTURES ODDS
Win total: 7.5 (Over -140)
To make playoffs: No -220, yes +180
Division: +1000 to win AFC West
Conference: +1200 to win AFC
Super Bowl: +4000 to win SB 55
MVP: QB Justin Herbert +15000, QB Tyrod Taylor +15000
Defensive POY: DE Joey Bosa +1400, S Derwin James +2500, DE Melvin Ingram +8000
Offensive ROY: Herbert +2000
Defensive ROY: LB Kenneth Murray +2000
To lead NFL in rushing: Austin Ekeler +4000
To lead NFL in receiving yards: Keenan Allen +3300
SportsLine Model's projection: 7.6 wins (Pick is Over)
Week 1 at Cincinnati, 4:05 PM ET: The Bengals are 6-1 ATS (5-2 SU) in the series since 2009, and the Under has hit in five straight matchups.
Week 2 vs. Kansas City, 4:25 PM ET: The Chiefs are 6-0 SU and ATS in their past six at the Chargers.
Week 3 vs. Carolina, 4:05 PM ET: The Panthers are 5-1 SU and ATS in the all-time series.
Week 4 at Tampa Bay, 1 PM ET: The Over is 7-0-1 since 1990, and the Chargers are 5-3 ATS.
Week 5 at New Orleans, 8:15 PM ET (Monday): The Chargers are 2-10 SU and ATS in its past 12 matchups with NFC South teams.
Week 6 vs. NY Jets, 4:05 PM ET: The Chargers are 5-2 SU and 4-3 ATS in the past seven in the Meadowlands.
Week 7 at Miami, 1 PM ET: The Under is 15-1 in the last 16 meetings (since 1995), with Miami winning 31-24 in 2016 with the total set at 49.
Week 8 vs. Jacksonville, 4:05 PM ET: The Chargers are 8-0 ATS (7-1 SU) in the past eight overall meetings.
Week 9 vs. Las Vegas, 4:05 PM ET: The Under is 6-1 the past seven times the Raiders have visited.
Week 10 BYE: The Under has hit in five of six after the bye week, and L.A. is 4-6 ATS over the past 10 years.
Week 11 at Denver, 4:05 PM ET: The Under hit once in the past six meetings in Denver, and that was the Chargers' only win (2-3-1 ATS).
Week 12 at Buffalo, 1 PM ET: The Chargers are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS in the past seven, dating to 2005.
Week 13 vs. New England, 4:25 PM ET: The Pats are 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS in the past nine, including three playoff victories.
Week 14 vs. Atlanta, 4:25 PM ET: A 33-30 Chargers victory as a 4.5-point underdog in 2016 broke an 0-6 SU losing skid (2-4 ATS) vs. Falcons.
Week 15 at Las Vegas, 8:20 PM ET (Thursday): The Chargers are 6-3 ATS in the past nine road meetings (5-4 SU).
Week 16 vs. Denver, TBD ET (Saturday or Sunday): The Broncos are 7-2 SU and ATS as a visitor in the past nine meetings, and the Under is 8-1.
Week 17 at Kansas City, 1 PM ET: The Chiefs are 5-1 SU, winning 29-28 in 2018, but 3-3 ATS in the past six in Arrowhead.
EXPERT PICK FROM NO. 1 NFL EXPERT MIKE TIERNEY: Over 7.5 wins (-120).
Too much attention has been focused on Tyrod Taylor. Tom Brady, he isn't, but the run-minded QB is serviceable, particularly with a foursome of stellar pass-catchers. Rookie backup Justin Herbert can bring a change of pace. The secondary is second to none with CB Chris Harris Jr. coming aboard. L.A., outscored by just eight points last year, was superior than its 5-11 record indicated. This team holds the 12th-best odds to win the Super Bowl, so its win total seems low. A winning streak is possible with a soft four-game span beginning Week 6 (Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars, Raiders).
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