Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 09:30 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
N.Y. Jets +3½ -110 over L.A. Chargers
8:15 PM EST. The matchup makes this a fascinating game. On the one hand, the Chargers clearly have the better quarterback. Justin Herbert is a 6'6" franchise star with a howitzer of an arm, able to make any and all throws on the field. If his coaching was at least satisfactory, he's the type of thrower that could lead a team to a championship. From what we can tell, discord in the Chargers' coaching staff is the issue. That starts with Brandon Staley.
Staley, according to everything we know about leadership and influence and forming elite teams, is not head-coaching material. Year after year, the Chargers enter a new season with as much talent as the Super Bowl favorite. And year after year they trip, show lack of chemistry on the field, and they haven't tasted a modicum of success. Pardon us if we don't consider making the playoffs a success; with LAC's talent, they should be a legitimate threat year-in, year-out.
Despite Staley's game management flaws and relatively clueless disposition when it comes to anything related to leadership, the Chargers' offense does enough. They're top-ten in all the offensive categories that matter, their pass-game is prolific (7.2 yards per pass, 258.9 pass yards per game), and they're good at conversions (ranked 12th in third down, 8th in fourth down, and 4th in red-zone success rates). Herbert and the offense are not the issue. The issue is the one area where we would expect Staley to have some influence. Turns out he can't even do that.
The Chargers' defensive failures are beyond egregious. The names of their roster sound like a Pro-Bowl team: Joey Bosa, Eric Kendricks, Khalil Mack, Asante Samuel Jr., Derwin James Jr. Yet season after season under Staley's "leadership," they're a serious problem. This year even the stats can't hide it. The Bolts' defense is dead-last in the NFL in yards allowed per pass (7.8), second-to-last in opponent yards per game (390.9), third-last in opponent yards per play (5.9), and 24th in opponent points per game (24). Of course on any given night, this is such a talented group that if even one positional unit had a big positive regression game, the Chargers would suddenly be a very hard team to beat. We just don't see that very often. That's a good thing for a struggling Jets' offense under Zach Wilson, one that's averaging a tiny 18 ppg (26th).
We don't have to go into detail about the Jets' offensive struggles. Aaron Rodgers immediate injury in Week 1 was a national story, and it's well-documented how much Wilson has struggled. He's also had some good moments, though, including quite a few game-winning drives. We've seen flashes of a true franchise QB in his game against Denver or in his improbable win against Philly. In his support, he also plays behind one of the NFL's worst offensive lines, ranked 27th in opponent sack rate (9.88%). Still, Wilson is flanked by explosive RB Breece Hall and an uber-talented WR Garrett Wilson. The Jets' O-line should be outclassed in this contest. If they survive, this is an offense that's talented enough to move the ball and put up points.
The Jets' defense is their difference-maker in most games. Capable of flipping a contest by creating turnovers or completely shutting down an enemy-operation, the Jets' defense is filled with stars. They own some of the best linebackers and cornerbacks in the league, and their defensive line is young and hungry. New York's front can struggle stopping the run; we imagine limiting Austin Ekeler will be their focus, but ultimately they tend to make the plays that matter at the game's most important moments. They rank 3rd in opponent points per play (0268), 4th in opponent yards per play (4.8), and 8th in points allowed (18.4), all evidence that above-average is their norm.
When we break this game down, these teams present more evenly than disparate. The Jets' are younger and volatile, but their counterpart isn't any better. Despite all the veteran talent on the Chargers' roster, they often look disconnected and clumsy in pivotal moments. The Jets tend to step up in those very same moments, a sign of a well-coached team. New York is at home but they have a trip to Vegas in just five days after Monday night's affair. That's not ideal, but LAC's schedule has been weird, too. They bounce back and forth every week, home then away, home then away, and I imagine an East Coast trip wasn't high on their wish-list. Whatever team comes out more crisp should be able to control this game, but that's a relative coin-flip based on the data. If we're keeping that in mind, there's only one way we could look.
N.Y. Jets +3½ -110 (Risking 2.2 units - To Win: 2.00)