NFL Picks: Chargers vs. Cardinals Opening Odds

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, May 27, 2014 3:27 PM GMT

It's a sneaky-good final game of the opening week NFL schedule when San Diego visits Arizona in the second game of the annual Week 1 Monday night doubleheader. The Cardinals are 3.5-point favorites with a total of 44.5 on NFL odds.

Rare Week 1 Matchup of Winning Teams
In the "no one said life was fair" department, the Cardinals actually had won more victory last regular season than San Diego with 10 but they were on the outside of the looking in for the playoffs. The Chargers snuck in thanks to a missed kick by Kansas City's Ryan Succop at the end of regulation of the Week 17 Chiefs-Bolts game. The Chargers weren't given much of a shot to then win in Cincinnati in the wild-card round as the Bengals had been unbeaten at home, but they pulled a 27-10 upset. San Diego played gamely the next week at AFC top-seeded Denver but lost 24-17.

Chargers QB Philip Rivers had been a turnover machine in 2011-12, but he seemed reborn under the tutelage of new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt last year. Rivers led the NFL with a career-high 69.5 completion percentage while throwing for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns. Most important, he had only 12 total turnovers after at least 27 in each of the two previous years. The Chargers also have a rising star in receiver Keenan Allen. He finished second to Green Bay's Eddie Lacy for the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. Allen caught 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight scores as a third-round pick out of Cal. San Diego was rather quiet this offseason in free agency. The biggest contributor likely will be former Colts running back Donald Brown, who will backup Ryan Mathews. The team did lose Whisenhunt, now the head coach in Tennessee.

Whisenhunt's previous head coaching stop was with the Cardinals, and he was let go following Arizona's 5-11 season in 2012. Bruce Arians replaced Whisenhunt, and he seemed to rejuvenate the career of Carson Palmer. He played all 16 games for the first time since 2010 and set a career-high with 4,274 yards passing. Palmer did throw way too many interceptions with 22 but generally improved quite a bit in the second half of the season. He has a very good receiving duo in Larry Fitzgerald (954 yards, 10 TDs) and Michael Floyd (1,041 yards, five TDs) and a rising star in young running back Andre Ellington (652 yards rushing, 39 catches). The defense was quite good last year, ranking No. 6 in total yards and No. 1 against the rush. Arizona is hoping that second-year safety Tyrann Mathieu will be ready for the opener. The former "Honey Badger" was great as a rookie before blowing out his knee in Week 14. Arizona thinks there's a "chance" he will be ready for Week 1. 

This is one of only three Week 1 games featuring teams who both had winning records last year. They are all prime-time games. 

2014 AFC Future Odds Picks and Predictions

Last meeting
The teams haven't played since Week 4 of the 2010 season in San Diego, which the Bolts won easily 41-10. Rivers threw for 241 yards with two touchdowns. Antonio Gates caught both of them, finishing with seven catches for 144 yards. Arizona's quarterbacks that day were the not-so-terrific duo of Max Hall and Derek Anderson. They managed a total of 87 passing yards and were sacked nine times. Usually clubs don't want to face a team it will play early in the regular season in the preseason, but the Chargers will host the Cardinals in their final preseason game Aug. 28. Think the coaches will be rather vanilla in that matchup and keep the starters glued to the bench?

NFL Free Picks: Take the Cardinals on NFL odds and the 'over'. Arizona has covered four straight season openers. The 'over' is 4-1 in San Diego's past five September games.
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