Bet Cardinals to Cover -3 vs. Chargers for Monday Night Football

Jason Lake

Thursday, September 4, 2014 8:29 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 4, 2014 8:29 PM UTC

Both the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals outperformed market expectations last year. But only one of these teams can beat the NFL odds in the tail end of our Monday Night Football doubleheader.

Back in ancient times, circa 2012, the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals were both losing teams. So they fired their head coaches. And their general managers. Problem solved: The 2013 Chargers went 9-7 SU and 9-6-1 ATS, while the Cardinals destroyed the NFL betting lines at 10-6 SU and 11-5 ATS. Piece of cake. 

Too bad they can’t fire their front offices again. Well, they could, but it probably wouldn’t have the same effect. Both these teams are likely to give back some of those gains this year. But what will happen when they meet Monday night (10:20 p.m. ET, ESPN) at The U? Our NFL odds board had the Cardinals favored by 3.5 points at the open, but that spread has tightened up to –3 (–115) as we go to press.


Three Wise Men
Comparing their two extreme makeovers, you could make the argument that the Chargers needed it more. Norv Turner led San Diego to the playoffs in his first three seasons as head coach, but the last three years didn’t work out too well, and QB Philip Rivers (88.6 passer rating in 2012) looked like he was ready for the scrap heap by the end of Turner’s run. GM A.J. Smith also saw his mojo run out, at both the draft table and the negotiating table.

Coming in to save the day: head coach Mike McCoy and GM Tom Telesco – but also a third messiah in offensive co-ordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who just happened to be the previous head coach in Arizona. This trio got right to work fixing San Diego’s offense, and you can see the results on the efficiency charts, as the Bolts rocketed from No. 24 to No. 2 in just one season. So how much credit do we give Whisenhunt? Inquiring minds want to know, because Whisenhunt is now the head coach in Tennessee. Frank Reich (yes, that Frank Reich) is the new offensive co-ordinator in San Diego after serving as QB coach last year. This is Reich’s first crack at the OC job. Let’s see how he does.


G’Day, Bruce
Like Turner, Whisenhunt got the boot in Arizona after six years on the job, missing the playoffs each of the last three years as the team’s offense fell apart. But former GM Rod Graves has to take some of the blame for their personnel woes at quarterback and on the offensive line. People in the know were ecstatic when Steve Keim was finally promoted to the GM job, and for good reason: Keim (who started at left guard for North Carolina State) was named 2013 NFL Executive of the Year by Pro Football Talk.

One of the first – and smartest – things Keim did was hire Bruce Arians as his head coach. Arians earned AP Coach of the Year honors in 2012 after he took over the Indianapolis Colts on an interim basis from Chuck Pagano. Not only that, Arians was also the offensive co-ordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers when they beat Whisenhunt’s Cardinals at Super Bowl XLIII. The Steelers haven’t been quite the same since Arians left.

Keim also wisely traded a sixth round pick (plus a conditional pick) to the Oakland Raiders for QB Carson Palmer, who posted a respectable 83.9 passer rating and brought some stability to Arizona’s neediest position. Palmer doesn’t have much left in the tank at age 34, but he does have a hot young running back in Andre Ellington (5.5 yards per carry as a rookie) who could be the next megastar in the NFC West. Maybe Arizona won’t have to wrestle the regression monster after all.


The Five Stars
Injuries/Suspensions/Travel: EVEN

Defense/Special Teams: ARI

Coaching: ARI

Market Bias: ARI

Betting Line Value: ARI

NFL Pick: Put four units on the Cardinals –3 (–115) at 5Dimes

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