Two very similar teams, who battled to a one-point game last season, hook up Saturday night as Arizona hosts San Diego for a Week 2 NFL exhibition bout. The Cardinals are short favorites for this one, but we're thinking the value might reside with the underdog.
Chargers-Cardinals Preseason Odds
Much of this week's NFL betting market opened this game with Arizona favored by a point or a point and a half, then bumped the Cardinals a point or so. As of Friday afternoon the best line we could find on Arizona was the -2.5 (-115) offered at YouWager, while San Diego was getting +3 (-120) at JustBet. Also, most sportsbooks listed their total on this game at 39.5, with a few 39's out there, too.
San Diego opened this preseason with a 17-7 victory over Dallas last Thursday. The Chargers came up with a grand total of 199 yards of offense, as back-up quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and rookie Brad Sorensen combined to go 9-of-18 passing for 55 yards, but the defense held the Cowboys to 238 yards, although, of course, Tony Romo didn't play and DeMarco Murray now lugs the nut for another team.
San Diego covered as a four-point favorite, and the game played UNDER a total of 37.
Arizona, on the other hand, opened this exhibition season with a 34-19 loss at home to Kansas City last Saturday. The Cardinals scored the first 10 points of the game, as QB Carson Palmer went 4-for-4 passing for 77 yards, but the Chiefs then scored the next 31 points of the game. Arizona got out-gained 370-308, out-rushed 143-75 and lost time-of-possession by a 33-27 margin.
That game went off as a pick 'em, and played OVER a total of 37.
Arizona is coming off an 11-5 season last year that ended with a bit of a thud, a 27-16 wild-card loss at Carolina. But the Cardinals, as we recall, played that game with about their third-string quarterback, and still managed to lead at halftime.
Arizona expects another run to the playoffs this season, especially with the expected demise of division rival San Francisco. As of earlier this week 5Dimes was offering +150 on the Cardinals making the playoffs this season, +585 on winning the NFC West, +1350 to win the NFC and +2800 to win the Super Bowl, with a basic wins OVER/UNDER of 8.5 (among other samplings).
San Diego, meanwhile, went 9-7 last year but missed the playoffs. The Chargers got to 8-4 heading past the quarter pole, but lost three of their last four, including a tough 19-7 decision in the season finale at Kansas City, when a win would have gotten them in. San Diego might have to win at least 10 games to get in this season, too.
5Dimes was offering +170 on the Chargers to make the playoffs, +440 to win the AFC West, +1500 to win the AFC and +5000 to win the Super Bowl, with a wins OVER/UNDER of 8.5.
5Dimes was also offering a payout of +25500 (255-to-1) on a Cardinals-Chargers Super Bowl this season.
Chargers-Cardinals Recent History
These teams met in Week 1 of last season, when the Cardinals overcame a 17-6 fourth-quarter deficit to win 18-17. Arizona out-gained San Diego that day 403-290, out-rushed the Bolts 109-52 and won time-of-possession by a 32-28 margin, but couldn't cover the spread as a three-point home favorite, because a Carson Palmer fumble gave the Chargers a short field, which they turned into a touchdown.
That game played UNDER its total of 45.
Chargers-Cardinals Free Picks
Each of these teams is probably approaching this game with the same attitude; both expect to contend for a playoff spot this season, so they'll just work on filling the holes they have, getting folks in shape, make decisions about the back-up QB spots and generally just try to stay healthy. Our guess is both Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer will play about a quarter Saturday night, then turn the game over to guys like Clemens, Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas.
As we saw last season these two teams are fairy equal; both have trouble running the ball, both depend heavily on their starting quarterback, and both can play some defense. But we give San Diego the edge at the quarterback situation, and it's getting a field goal, in a game it could simply win outright. In fact, we'll play the Chargers on the money-line. Also, these teams played a grinder last year, so we're thinking UNDER.