Thursday Night Football Betting: An AFC West Showdown in Kansas City

The Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs are set to square off on Thursday Night Football. These two teams look like two of the best squads in the AFC, and they are going to be in a dogfight for the AFC West.

Our nERD-based rankings show that this game could be a delight. Both squads rank inside the top-five by our numbers and are coming off quality opening-week wins.

Let's dive into some interesting betting angles for this contest.

Game Preview and Key Matchups

Let's gush a bit on how good the quarterback play is going to be tonight, shall we?

Patrick Mahomes took a wee bit of a step back last year, but he still had a superb campaign. Mahomes logged a mark of 0.23 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back a year ago -- the fourth-best clip among signal-callers -- on his way to 4,830 yards and 37 touchdowns.

His counterpart, Justin Herbert, was pretty stellar in his own right, recording a rate of 0.22 Passing NEP per drop back. He topped the 5,000-yard mark (5,076) and bested Mahomes by one passing score (38).

These two are the cream of the crop at the quarterback position.

In the Kansas City backfield in 2021, Clyde Edwards-Helaire carried the ball 119 times for 0.01 Rushing NEP per carry. Rookie Isiah Pacheco led the backfield with 12 carries for 62 yards and a score last week, although almost all of that came in garbage time. CEH remained very present in the passing game, catching three balls for 32 yards and two scores, while Pacheco did not garner a single target.

For the Chargers last year, Austin Ekeler carried the ball 206 times, totaling 12 rushing scores and ripping off 0.08 Rushing NEP per rush. Ignoring Ekeler's work in the passing game would be silly, as he caught 70 passes (on 94 targets) a year ago while scoring eight times through the air.

LA grinded out a win last week over the Las Vegas Raiders, and while Ekeler totaled just 72 yards from scrimmage, he did nab 18 touches. With Keenan Allen out, this could be a big night for the Chargers' running back.

Overall, we can see why these two teams are so highly thought of as they're good on both sides of the ball, ranking inside the top-six both offensively and defensively.

On D, the Chargers get the slide edge, ranking seventh so far this season. On defense last year, the Chiefs were opportunistic, nabbing 29 takeaways (fifth-best), while the Chargers logged only 21.

Bets to Consider

After a big win by each team in Week 1, what do we see happening in this huge Week 2 tilt?

The Chiefs are 4.5-point home favorites, and the line has moved a point in KC's favor after being at -3.5 earlier in the week. The total is listed at 53.5 points.

We are projecting a 30.6-24.0 win for Kansas City, and we give the Chiefs a 54.9% chance to cover the spread.

On the total, we have a slight lean on the over as we project it to win out 52.7% of the time.

Comparing player prop lines to our player projections, betting the under on passing yards on Mahomes seems scary but could make for a smart bet.

We project him for just shy of 278 yards, but the line sits at a lofty 296.5 yards. Newly signed Khalil Mack wreaked havoc last week on the Raiders' offensive line, as the Bolts recorded a total of six sacks. They also forced three interceptions. A possible return from injury for J.C. Jackson, who is questionable, would be a lift for LA's defense.

Historic Betting Trends

-- As a road underdog, the Chargers have been great, posting a 4-1 against-the-spread (ATS) mark in their last five games.

-- The road team has won each of the previous four meetings between these two.

-- In their last 10 games against AFC teams other than the Chargers, the Chiefs are 7-3 ATS.