The Chargers fly to the desert after an opening preseason victory where their hosts, the Arizona Cardinals will be looking to rebound from their Week 1 preseason loss to the Chiefs. Which side gives us the best opportunity to cash in our NFL picks?
San Diego Chargers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS)
The Chargers dispatched the Cowboys 17-7 on Thursday night of last week and easily covered the NFL odds -4 ½ point impost as home chalk. Former Patriot Danny Woodhead made a splash in his first game back from a season ending injury he suffered last September when he carried for an 8-yard scamper into the endzone to put the Bolts up 7-0 in the first quarter. Second-year man Brandon Oliver found daylight right before the half with a 10-yard TD run of his own to put San Diego up 14-7 at the break. The second half was devoid of offense save for a 52-yard field goal by Chargers’ kicker Nick Novak.
Let’s not forget that Antonio Gates, the Chargers All-Pro tight end, will be serving a four-game suspension when the season starts therefore Ladarius Green is expected to get the majority of reps at that spot. However, he was not targeted at all in the preseason opener. The aerial attack was more of a polite imposition as the three San Diego QB’s combined for only 75 yards. Phillip Rivers was 2-of-2 for 20 yards, Kellen Clemens was 5-of-10 for 31 yards and Brad Sorenson was 4-of-8 for 24 yards. The defense was the hero in this one as they held Dallas to 188 yards through the air and 70 on the ground.
Arizona Cardinals (0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS)
Arizona was installed as a one-point home favorite in their preseason opener against the Chiefs but the game was not nearly as close as the NFL odds makers predicted. However the good news for Arizona fans was that Carson Palmer looked like he was mid-season form after returning to the field for the first time since early November after suffering a torn ACL. The veteran quarterback started the game and marshalled his team down the field for a seven play 80 yard-touchdown drive highlighted by a 57 yard strike to Andre Ellington.
The bottom line to the Week 1 preseason loss was a startling display of not-ready-for-primetime backups, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The starters looked solid but when the second and third stringers took the field there was a noticeable drop in pressure, productivity and tackling ability. Logan Thomas, the 6’6” inch quarterback out of Virginia Tech taken in the 4th round of the 2014 draft, had a decided edge over rookie Phillip Sims as the understudy to Carson Palmer. Thomas was 9-of 15 for 107 yards while Sims was 3-for-12 for 49 yards.
At first blush it looks like the Chargers defense might mitigate any offense by the Cardinals but upon closer inspection we see an Arizona team that could generate much more offense as the starters get a wee bit more playing time. Carson Palmer looked razor sharp in his 2015 debut and the Cardinals defense is much stouter than they demonstrated in their first go ‘round.
I look for this to be a relatively low scoring affair with the Chargers defense looking solid in the opener while the Cardinals have something to prove after their backups lackluster play against Kansas City. As we peruse the NFL odds we see that the Cardinals are -1 (-125) and the total is 39 ½ for Saturday night’s matchup. We see redemption for the Cards and a low scoring game.
NFL Pick: Arizona -1 (-125) and under 39 ½ in this Saturday night clash in the desert.