Raiders vs. Chiefs NFL Picks: Bet Oakland +7.5 At Kansas City

Sterling Xie

Saturday, January 2, 2016 7:23 PM GMT

Despite their nine-game winning streak, the Kansas City Chiefs are a team bettors should fade when they play their regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

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NFL Pick: Raiders +7.5

Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

At 10-5, the Kansas City Chiefs are one of the most remarkable turnaround stories in NFL history and look like a legitimate postseason threat in a thin AFC field.  Playing their regular-season home finale against their AFC West rival Oakland Raiders, the Chiefs have every reason to play at full strength in Week 17, given that they can still win the division crown with a Denver Broncos loss.

Consequently, bookmakers have installed the Chiefs as 7.5-point favorites, up from their opening line of 6.5.  Bettors are likely counting on the return of All-Pro pass-rusher Justin Houston, while also remembering Kansas City's breezy 34-20 win at Oakland just one month ago. 

However, despite the Chiefs' winning streak, recent trends in their play suggest that they are shaky bets to cover this line.  With a total of 43.5 points, Kansas City's implied total is 25 points.  Immediately, that should raise red flags for bettors, as the Chiefs have not scored more than two offensive touchdowns in three consecutive games.  Defensive touchdowns against turnover-prone squads like Baltimore have boosted Kansas City's point total in recent weeks, but when they can't get a non-offensive score, the Chiefs tend to play games like their slugfest wins over the Browns (17-13) and Chargers (10-3).

Indeed, the Chiefs have been a rather streaky squad against the spread.  After failing to cover for five straight games from Weeks 2-6, the Chiefs subsequently covered on each of their next six games (all of which they were favored to win).  However, bettors have pushed the Chiefs too hard since their six-game winning streak ATS, making them 10.5-point home favorites against both San Diego and Cleveland in two of the past three weeks.  Nevertheless, while Kansas City did not come close to covering either spread, bettors have still made them a borderline two-possession favorite on the NFL odds board against a more capable Oakland squad.

As underdogs this season, the Raiders have provided strong values for bettors grabbing the points.  Oakland is 6-3 ATS this year as underdogs, including covers for its two largest point spreads of the season.  The Oakland Raiders won outright as six-point dogs against Baltimore in Week 2 (37-33) and again as 6.5 dogs against Denver in Week 14 (15-12).  Given that this game will likely be the Raiders largest point spread of the season, that prior track record should comfort bettors.

For this specific matchup, there are reasons to believe Oakland can hang with Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium, if not win outright.  As alluded to earlier, the Chiefs are rather big-play dependent, needing scores, sacks and turnovers from its defense to buttress a flagging offense.  The Chiefs have been an elite playmaking defense all season, ranking eighth in sack percentage and fourth in takeaways per game.  Additionally, the Chiefs are tied with Arizona for the most defensive touchdowns in the league, having scored six times off returns.

That includes one against Oakland in the first meeting, part of a huge defensive showing that included three turnovers and four sacks.  However, the Raiders have been generally strong a big-play prevention, ranking fifth in sacks allowed percentage.  In fact, though Oakland lost by two touchdowns, the boxscore indicates a game that would have been much closer had the Chiefs not generated so many game-changing plays.  The Raiders outgained Kansas City 361-232 and held the edge in time of possession 34:28-25:32.  Moreover, both teams averaged 4.8 yards per play, suggesting the offenses were similarly efficient on a per-play basis.

This time, it's Oakland edge-rusher Khalil Mack who seems likeliest to make the game's biggest play.  Only the 49ers have allowed a higher sack percentage than the Chiefs (9.13 percent), who have shuffled through several offensive line combinations this season.  Mack's five-sack performance keyed the Raiders upset over the Broncos three weeks ago, and it's not difficult to imagine a similarly dominant performance again keeping Oakland in the game as road underdogs.

So while Kansas City has posted several gaudy point totals in its two-month winning streak, the Chiefs do not profile as a team poised to post a huge number which would justify laying the points.  In fact, based on their recent struggles against the three-win Browns and four-win Chargers, it's not outrageous to suggest the Raiders may win this game outright.  While the public continues to believe in Kansas City on the strength of their midseason ATS surge, savvy bettors know that perception is outdated and will grab the points with my NFL picks in this matchup.