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Holiday Feast
by Dennis Ranahan

During the 2013 holiday season, our son’s in-laws were visiting from San Diego, their hometown. Kevin’s wife’s parents are a little more buttoned up than Kevin has for parental guidance, but we meet on a shared love of football. What I do for a living has always been of interest to our guests, but betting on football games to make a living has never squarely equated to their idea of a business model.

I avoid talking about what I do to most people, focusing rather if asked what I do professionally on writing or speaking. At dinner the night after Thanksgiving in a very nice San Francisco restaurant, our party of seven, including our one-year-old grandson, Mickey, in a booster chair next to his mother, enjoyed a great evening at a wonderful San Francisco restaurant.

When the bill arrived I reached for it before the waiter could get it on the table, and the move met with a quick response from Dick, Kevin’s father-in-law.

In response to him saying, “That doesn’t have to be on you,” I replied, this one is on your Chargers as a Premium Top Pick on Sunday.

As I said that, I kind of winced inside. That kind of bravado is for someone else at the end of a bar on Sunday, not from me two nights before a contest. My confidence is always based on the predominance of the information, but I have noticed that the success rate is not higher when I’m more confident, at least when that confidence drives me to boast before a game. My picks are best, when there is a tinge of doubt, because that same fear of failure is driving the players involved in the game and real life concerns are motivational bullets.

I have a dining room set in my house I paid for twice. I was very, very confident of the Cleveland Browns plus the points over the Denver Broncos in the 1987 playoffs. In a post Christmas sale at Macy’s, my wife picked out a dining room set that would have been out of our price range without the post holiday price reduction.

Fine, I boasted, we’ll put it on the Macy’s card tonight and I’ll pay the bill off with the winnings from the Browns this weekend. That weekend, Earnest Byner fumbled near the goal line and the Broncos won, 38-33, and I bought that dining room set twice.

Fears that I was overconfident with the Chargers in November, 2013, were unfounded, as Philip Rivers and company outscored the Chiefs, and paid our dinner tab, 41-38. That extended the Chargers winning streak over Kansas City to three games. They won their fourth straight over the Chiefs five weeks later, when some highly controversial referee calls handed the two touchdown favorite Chargers a three point win.

The Chiefs haven’t lost to the Chargers since that road robbery five years ago. Kansas City brings a nine game winning streak against the Chargers into tonight’s game and has an 8-2 point spread record the last ten times these two teams have tangled. One of those Kansas City wins was last December, when the Chiefs were in search of their eighth straight win over the Chargers and the betting public was split on the game with the point spread shifting between a pick ‘em and Kansas City a 1-point home underdog.

Like the game in 2013, this one ranked as a Premium Top Pick, but on the Chiefs instead of the Chargers. Kansas City won that game last December over Philip Rivers and his Chargers, 30-13. They won their ninth straight game over Rivers on opening day this year as an underdog, and come into this one favored on the point spread.

With a victory tonight, Kansas City would clinch the AFC West based on both their won/loss mark and tiebreaker edge over the Chargers by virtue of a perfect division record. Kansas City is looking to move their AFC West record to 5-0, while the Chargers already have two losses in the division to Kansas City and the Denver Broncos.

Which means this. The Chiefs will have the edge for top seed in the AFC postseason win or lose tonight. The Chargers, with a loss would remain a solid Wild Card prospect, but relinquish any hope of catching the Chiefs in their division race.

The Chiefs have the better record, better offense, and are at home.

The Chargers are a better overall team, when balancing offense and defense, and are led by a highly productive veteran at quarterback. Still, no team has anything on the Chiefs this season when the quarterback position is discussed. Two-year veteran and first-year starter, Patrick Mahomes, is orchestrating a season that ranks at or near the top in the annals of first-year starting NFL quarterbacks.

What the Chargers are tonight, is a team ready to win that has the challenge of overcoming the loss of their first two choices at runningback, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. While head coach Anthony Lynn is insisting that leading rusher Gordon is a game time decision, that is only seeking a competitive edge on who your opponent needs to prepare for.

Lynn knows, the players know, and the world will soon know, Gordon is not playing tonight. The last thing the Chargers would do is rush him into action and risk reaggravating his injury before the postseason for a game that either will or won’t serve in getting the Chargers team a division title.

A Wild Card berth with a healthy Gordon is a lot more important than having him play and risk injury tonight. The Chiefs will also be without their top runner, following the revelations on runningback Kareem Hunt which sent him packing.

The result of this game has been aimed at the Chargers for five years. All the results that have preceded tonight’s matchup have fed the factors that will serve a holiday feast to the visiting Chargers in this one.

Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Chargers (+3½) over Kansas City Chiefs