NFL Picks: San Diego Chargers at Detroit Lions Odds and Preview

Doc Moseman@DocsSportsCorrespondent IDecember 21, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 18:  San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner talks with quarterback Philip Rivers #17 against the Baltimore Ravens at Qualcomm Stadium on December 18, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

This is a huge game in terms of playoff implications on Saturday at Ford Field between surging San Diego and the host Lions at 4:05 p.m. EST on CBS.

Let’s start with Detroit (9-5). If the Lions beat or tie San Diego, they clinch their first playoff spot since 1999. The Lions could also clinch a playoff spot with a loss, and if the four teams trailing them in the wild-card standings—the Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals—all lose.

Detroit probably wants to get it done this week considering the Lions visit Lambeau in Week 17 and haven’t won there since 1991.

The Chargers (7-7) are alive both for the AFC West title and a wild-card spot. The only way the Chargers can win the division is to win their final two games and have Denver lose its final two. The Chargers cannot win the wild card unless the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals each lose at least one of their final two games.

To be eliminated from wild card: Chargers lose to Detroit and either N.Y. Jets or Cincinnati wins. To stay alive in wild card: Chargers beat Detroit or Chargers lose to Detroit and N.Y. Jets lose to N.Y. Giants and Cincinnati loses to Arizona.

Chargers at Lions Betting Storylines

San Diego is having its typical late-season surge under Norv Turner, who probably has to make the playoffs to keep his job.

The Bolts played arguably their best game of the year on Sunday night in thumping Baltimore, 34-14, as the Ravens were fighting for the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Philip Rivers led the offense to scores on six of its first seven possessions and the Chargers coasted to their third straight victory by at least 20 points behind a defense that produced two turnovers and seven sacks. The Chargers' 34 points are the most scored against the Ravens this season.

San Diego had dropped six straight before this winning streak. Rivers led the NFL in picks most of the year but has gone four games in a row without one. Since Week 13, the Chargers have scored an NFL-high 109 points. They are now 20-2 in December/January under Turner.

A big reason for the turnaround has been health. The return of left guard Tyronne Green and right guard Louis Vasquez has shored up Rivers' protection, left tackle Jared Gaither has been a godsend since being acquired off waivers, and wide receiver Malcom Floyd's return has given Rivers another target. Plus, running back Ryan Mathews is averaging 113.3 yards per game in the past four.

By surpassing 4,000 yards passing, Rivers joined Peyton Manning (1999-04 and 2006-10) and former teammate Drew Brees (2006-11) as the only QBs in NFL history with at least four-straight 4,000-yard seasons.

Detroit did the Chargers a favor by beating Oakland on Sunday, 28-27, for the Lions’ second win in a row (they were down 27-14 with about five minutes remaining). Matthew Stafford completed 29-of-52 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns. He completed nine for 214 yards and two TDs to “Megatron,” Calvin Johnson, who ended a five-game drought with no 100-yard receiving games and only one touchdown. It was the third-most receiving yards in Lions history.

Star DT Ndamukong Suh returned from a two-game suspension and blocked the potential game-winning 65-yard field goal as time expired. Detroit is the first team since at least 1950 with four comeback wins in one season from deficits of 13 points or more.

Stafford broke Scott Mitchell's single-season Lions record for scoring passes (32) on Sunday and should surpass Mitchell's yardage mark (4,338) this week against the Chargers.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Monday several injured players that didn't play against the Raiders, or were injured during the game, could be healthy enough to get back on the field against the Chargers. That includes safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (knee), cornerback Aaron Berry (shoulder) and defensive end Lawrence Jackson (thigh).

San Diego and Detroit haven’t met since 2007.

Chargers at Lions Betting Odds and Trends

Detroit has opened as a 1.5-point favorite with the total at 52 on NFL odds. The Bolts are 5-9 ATS this season and 2-4 ATS on road. The Lions are 6-6-2 ATS and 3-4 ATS at home. ‘Over/under’ records: DET 9-5, SD 7-7.

The Chargers are 4-0 ATS in past four as a dog of less than three points. The Lions are 5-0-3 ATS in past eight as a favorite of three points or less. But the Lions are 0-3-1 ATS in past four after a win.

The ‘over’ is 5-0-1 in San Diego’s past six as a dog. The ‘over’ is 6-0 in Lions’ past six as a favorite of three points or less. The Chargers have covered the past four in this series.

NFL Picks: San Diego Chargers at Detroit Lions Betting Preview

Love the ‘over’ here as neither offense figures to be stopped–we could see 800 passing yards in this one.

The Lions haven’t been particularly great at home this year, plus they have a little more wiggle room than does San Diego. It’s also clear that Lions top back Kevin Smith isn’t 100 percent healthy so Detroit could be one-dimensional on offense.

Thus, the Chargers are the pick in a 31-27 win.

Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc's Sports football picks Web site.