Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Upon Further Review: Chargers Dominate 42-17

San Diego has been good to BadNFL this month. Odds-makers continue to underestimate the Bolts in December, and for the second time in three weeks, BadNFL jumped on the chance to pick the Chargers as December underdogs. It worked again, as San Diego dominated the Titans, 42-17. I have to admit I'm somewhat surprised, as the Titans had been red hot and were playing at home on a non-traditional short week, something that is usually a big advantage. I figured that San Diego would win, but not by this much. Turns out they simply dominated the game, as Philip Rivers (a clear #2 in the MVP vote, at this point) put up huge vertical passing numbers through the first 3 quarters. As I've pointed out numerous times, the Titans are not a good come from behind team, and this game was essentially over at halftime. Why? The Chargers' passing offense was explosive, and predictably Tennessee could not stop it. But their defense was also surprisingly effective, and has been playing quite well of late. More than well enough to dispatch the Titans.


1. I love the Chargers in December. I will keep picking them automatically when they are December underdogs, as long as Philip Rivers and Norv Turner are running the show. The logic has simply not been proven wrong yet, as Rivers stretched his December streak to 17 wins in a row. And don't look now, but San Diego has covered 7 of their last 10 games. I think they're the best team in the NFL right now, and if the Colts are favored in a potential match-up in the AFC Championship game against the Bolts, I'm definitely going with the Bolts.

2. Top 5 passing offenses vs. bottom 5 passing defenses. I said this was one of my keys to watch for, as I think these type of situations lend themselves well to blowouts. So it was particularly easy to pick when the Chargers were underdogs.

3. The adjustment period: when the Chargers lost stud NT Jamal Williams for the year, I really thought they'd have difficulty adjusting, since the NT is arguably the most important component of the 3-4 defense. Well turns out I was both right and wrong. Right in that it took the Chargers, and particularly their defense, several weeks to get back on track. But wrong in that they now appear to be fully recovered. That's a pattern to watch out for next year: fade a team for the couple of weeks right after they lose an important but unheralded defensive cog, but be ready to jump back on the bandwagon after a few weeks' adjustment period. One interesting note: this strategy would have worked well with the Pats and Jerod Mayo earlier in the year.

4. Bonus Lesson Learned: While the Saints' loss to Tampa Bay this week may have been surprising to most, it shouldn't have been. The previous two times a team, previously undefeated through Thanksgiving, lost for the first time (the 2005 Colts and the 1998 Broncos) after Thanksgiving, they also lost the next week. The Saints now make three. In other words, next time a team is undefeated through Thanksgiving, watch for their first loss. And bet against them the following week. (Caveat: not sure this applies to the Colts and their weird decision to bench Manning et. al.).


  1. A question:

    Do you put much stock in this "time of the year stuff"? Like I understand that the Cowboys have been "awful in December" and the Chargers "awesome in December" but do you think its the time of the year, or do you think its other factors (strength of schedule, health, potential position) that explain it. I am not sure why one month more than another would sink a team, aside from weather considerations (but the Chargers have been good on the road just as the Cowboys have been bad at home). I am suspicious that it is the montht that really matters. Perhaps I will take some time to examine the Chargers and Cowboys strengths of schedules over the last few years and get back to this comment thread.

  2. Yeah, that's a good question. I do think there are some non-arbitrary factors that may explain "time of year" phenomenons, such as the coach's approach during the season (keeping them mentally focused during the year), the quality of the trainers in keeping the guys fresh, teams' ability to play well after the rest of the league gets film on them from the year, etc. I do think the 'Boys thing was somewhat overblown since we really always just have a tough schedule in December, but I also think that media coverage of the December phenomenon can be a distraction.

    It's also getting harder to chalk up the Chargers' win streak to just random luck/small sample size, given that it's now reached 16 in a row in December. Hard to explain exactly why, but they remind me of the early-2000's Oakland A's--always starting slow, finishing strong. I agree that it's not the most scientific way to bet, but it's hard not to keep riding them the way they keep coming through.