There are a handful of games in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season featuring teams with winning records from last season and one is Lions at Chargers. Might it be the final home opener in San Diego? The Bolts are at -2.5 on 5Dimes with a total of 45.5.
Los Angeles Chargers?
I'm sure everyone knows by now that there is a race to Los Angeles between the Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams. The Chargers, who have been looking to replace Qualcomm Stadium for many years, and Raiders have a joint stadium plan in Carson, Calif., while the Rams have the early lead on a stadium project in Inglewood. There's going to be a team in L.A. next season. I think the Raiders are all but a lock, but the NFL wants two of them. So will either San Diego or St. Louis step up in time for a new stadium?
Both cities are trying. The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved $2.1 million for accelerated environmental studies required for a public stadium vote in December or January. San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has promised a public vote even if one is not required by law. However, the Chargers have broken off negotiations with the mayor over the proposed new stadium. In fact, Chargers counsel Mark Fabiani said this on the eve of the vote: "The Chargers will have no part in the city's misbegotten, doomed legal strategy." Ok then. The NFL plans a meeting in Chicago on Aug. 11 to discuss relocation issues. So we won't have clarity on San Diego's future by the home opener, but I wonder if there will be something special done just in case.
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San Diego finished 9-7 last season but missed the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years.. This could definitely be a transitional year for the franchise on the field as well because quarterback Philip Rivers doesn't have a contract beyond this season. Reports are that Rivers doesn't want to uproot his large family to Los Angeles and that's why the delay. It's also why you heard all those rumors that San Diego was shopping Rivers to Tennessee for the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft because the Chargers loved Marcus Mariota. That didn't happen, but I love what San Diego did: moved up a couple of spots to No. 15 overall and took Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, the nation's leading rusher in 2014 and a Heisman finalist. His 2,587 rushing yards fell just 42 yards short of Barry Sanders' FBS record of 2,628 yards. Gordon is currently the +600 second-favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, and I like him on that prop. The Chargers needed a featured back after letting talented but injury-prone Ryan Mathews leave in free agency.
The Lions catch a break here in that they won't have to worry about Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, a future Hall of Famer. He was suspended the first four games of the season under the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Gates finished with 12 touchdown receptions last season, tying him with Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots and Julius Thomas of the Broncos (now with Jaguars) for the most by a tight end in 2014. Gates has 99 TD catches all-time, No. 2 among tight ends in league history. He will clearly be missed by Rivers on third down and in the red zone.
Under first-year coach Jim Caldwell, the Lions were 11-5 last season, their most wins since 1991. They lost a winner-take-all game for the NFC North title in Green Bay in Week 17. That sent Detroit to Dallas for a wild-card game, and the Lions probably should have won but the Cowboys were the beneficiaries of two very questionable calls by the officials and prevailed 24-20.
The Lions said goodbye to their best defensive player and the best tackle in the league in Ndamukong Suh as he signed a massive free-agent deal with the Miami Dolphins. Detroit did replace him decently in trading for Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who used to be one of the NFL's best but is on the downside of his career. The Lions were fortunate that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is still around as he interviewed for a few head coaching jobs. The Detroit defense was No. 2 in the NFL last season.
Detroit also lost running back Reggie Bush to free agency but will be fine in the backfield with Joique Bell and second-round rookie Ameer Abdullah. This team will score plenty with Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
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AFC-NFC divisional opponents rotate every year so opponents only face each other once every four seasons. Thus the Lions and Chargers haven't played since 2011, so probably not much to glean from that. Detroit ended a six-game losing streak in the series with a 38-10 home win on Christmas Eve. It was a notable win because the Lions clinched their first playoff berth since 1999. Stafford threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson caught four passes for 102 yards and a score. Rivers was 28-for-53 for 299 yards with a TD and a pick.
NFL Free Picks: Never easy to travel across country and play, but doing it Week 1 pretty much eliminates any advantage that might be for San Diego. Not having Gates is big. Take the points and go 'over' at 5Dimes.