This Thursday we'll see the Chargers and Cowboys meet up in preseason action. Which road should we take when placing our NFL picks?
The NFL betting lines vary slightly depending on which sportsbook you're looking over. Some sites have a spread of three points on the table (with the Chargers favored at home), but some others have gone a step further and put the line at three and a half.
We don't see much offensive success come preseason, which explains why we see low totals across the board. The number is trading at 38 for this matchup between San Diego and Dallas on Thursday.
San Diego Chargers
Things were looking good for the Chargers after an excellent 5-1 start to their 2014 regular season, but they fizzled out over the next couple of months, going 4-6 over their final 10. San Diego finished 9-7 and just short of a playoff berth.
Philip Rivers, despite his team falling shy of the postseason, had an outstanding individual season and practically carried the offense on his back throughout the season. He didn't benefit much from an unreliable running game, which is why San Diego ended up with the 18th-ranked total offense in 2014. Defensively, the Chargers were ranked ninth, and they particularly effective against the pass (ranked fourth in fewest passing yards allowed).
This coming season, there have been some changes, but all in all San Diego is looking pretty strong. The Chargers have Rivers back, and he'll be linking up with Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Stevie Johnson and Antonio Gates (following his suspension). However, the biggest addition came through the draft, with Melvin Gordon expected to take over as the lead back for San Diego ahead of 2015.
Last season the Cowboys really made a run at the Super Bowl, only to fall to Green Bay in the divisional playoffs. It was a controversial loss too, as Dez Bryant had seemingly scored a go-ahead touchdown, only for the call to be reversed and the ball to instead be placed in the hands of the Packers. What a way to go out.
As we look towards the 2015 season, there's been one major move in particular that we need to highlight, that being the departure of DeMarco Murray. Murray was one of the most dangerous players in football last season, but now he's gone to rival Philadelphia. That's a big loss, as now Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar will be fighting for touches out of the backfield.
It's a good thing Romo and Dez Bryant have forged such a good connection. Those two alone will be able to carry the Dallas offense, but defensively the Cowboys will have to fare better after finishing 19th in total defense in 2014.
It's the first preseason game for both teams, so it wouldn't be surprising if both Rivers and Romo don't see any live action on Thursday. We've already seen Ben Roethlisberger rested in Pittsburgh's first matchup, and it's something we should be seeing a lot more of during the opening week.
Still, we do think San Diego may be worth a serious look as one of your NFL picks. Gordon figures to be involved, with the team hoping to bring him up to speed and get him accustomed to the highest level of football as soon as possible, and the Chargers simply have more depth offensively that we can rely on. They've got a great receiving corp featuring Allen, Floyd, Johnson and even new face Jacoby Jones, and even though those guys aren't going to get much time, if at all, that's still more than what the Cowboys will have to offer.
The Chargers look to be in an appealing spot in their preseason opener, up against a Dallas team that will likely play it safe with Romo at the very least, so we'll add them as favorites.
NFL Pick: San Diego Chargers -3 at BetOnline