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The Kansas City Chiefs own the recent rivalry with the Los Angeles Chargers, winning the last eight meetings in a row straight up and going 6-2 against the spread. Can Kansas City make it nine in a row when the teams open their seasons Sunday afternoon in suburban Los Angeles?

NFL point spread: The Chargers opened as three-point favorites; the total was 47.5 early in the week, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)

NFL betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 27.9-14.5 Chargers (NFL picks on every game)

Check out the OddsShark podcast on iTunes or at OddsShark.libsyn.com for more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news.
Why the Chiefs can cover the spread

Kansas City finished 10-6 last season both SU and ATS and won the AFC West, before getting upset by Tennessee in a wild-card round playoff game. The Chiefs started 5-1 last year, inexplicably lost six of their next seven but won their last four to clinch their playoff spot.

Over the offseason Kansas City made a big move, trading away quarterback Alex Smith, choosing to now move forward with young slinger Patrick Mahomes.

The Chiefs averaged 375 yards per game last year on offense while allowing 365 YPG on defense. So they ranked 12th in the league in total yardage at plus-10 per game.

Finally, Kansas City swept two games from the Chargers last season by scores of 24-10 and 30-13. The Chiefs covered that first game as three-point favorites at home, then covered as one-point favorites on the road.
Why the Chargers can cover the spread

Los Angeles finished 9-7 SU and 8-7-1 ATS last season, and just missed the playoffs. The Chargers got off to their typical slow start again last year, losing their first four games, and later sat at just 3-6. They then won six of their last seven but fell victim to a playoff tiebreaker.

Los Angeles averaged 377 YPG on offense last year while allowing 328 YPG on defense. So the Chargers ranked sixth in the NFL in total yardage at plus-49 YPG.

Los Angeles lost twice to Kansas City last year, but both those games were closer than those final scores might indicate. The Chargers only trailed that first meeting by a touchdown late in the game, before the Chiefs iced it with a score with just over two minutes to go. And Los Angeles actually led that second meeting 13-10 late into the third quarter before allowing the last 20 points.
Smart betting pick

The Chargers begin this season with heightened expectations, but those can sometimes be a heavy burden. Meanwhile, the Chiefs might be starting a youngster at quarterback, but he’s got a nice arsenal of weapons to work with on offense. Smart money bets KC plus the points.

NFL betting trends

The Chiefs are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games against the Chargers.

The total has gone under in six of the Chiefs’ last eight games against the Chargers.

The Chiefs are 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games on the road in September.

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Depending on the player, the Los Angles Chargers’ preseason finale against the San Francisco 49ers has wildly different meanings.

For the starters, it’s an extra night’s rest as Chiefs Week inches closer. Backups become first-teamers for a game. As for those on the bubble? It’s the Super Bowl in August. On Monday, Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley said those who have the most riding on Thursday’s performance would be wise to keep a clear head.

“We’ve had many guys this last (preseason) game make the team, but we’ve also had guys because of this game not make it,” Bradley said. “And generally, the ones that don’t make it – that are on the bubble – they’re really distracted.”
Instead of playing how they practice, Bradley explained that players can get caught up thinking too much about things that don’t equate to optimal performance.
“If they go out there and they’re like, ’Boy, I’m on the bubble. This is my chance. What happens if I don’t do well? What happens if I do well? How many guys are behind me?’ – If they do that, they generally don’t play very well.”

There are several resources in the building for those who are playing for a job this week. Bradley pointed to Assistant Defensive Line Coach Eric Henderson as someone who’s been in this exact situation and can give advice on how to best approach it.

Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler locked in a roster spot a year ago with an exceptional preseason finale. He’s one of just several players who will be counted on for support on Thursday night.

“The veterans are great,” Bradley said. “Really, they’ve been awesome this whole preseason. But we’ll even need them more in this game.”

DERWIN JAMES GAINING CONFIDENCE
After Saturday’s game against the Saints, safety Derwin James – who intercepted quarterback Drew Brees on the game’s third play – explained how much things have slowed down for him, even in the last two weeks. On Monday, Bradley agreed that the rookie has grown confidence in the defense.

“If he makes a mistake now, now he knows,” Bradley said. “He’ll come over and go, ‘That was on me’ where I couldn’t say that a couple of weeks ago.”

Bradley also referred to James as a “natural leader” with “a great spirit about him” that will continue to reveal itself with time.

“(He’s) very animated,” Bradley explained. “He’s got a lot of energy, but I think that personality would show more once he gains even more confidence in the system.”