A pair of West Coast teams take the field in Week 1 action of the NFL preseason out in the Valley of the Sun. The Los Angeles Chargers take the short trip to face the Arizona Cardinals Saturday night. Los Angeles finished 1-3 in the preseason last year and went 9-7 in the regular season yet missed the playoffs. Arizona was 2-3 in the preseason in 2017 and finished the regular season with an 8-8 mark. The Cardinals took an 18-17 win in the last meeting between the teams on September 8, 2014: these two teams meet in Los Angeles in week 12 of the regular season on November 25.
Los Angeles Chargers Looking to Patch Holes
Los Angeles closed the regular season with six wins in their final seven games but missed the postseason thanks to the Bengals downing the Ravens in week 17 action: that sent Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time since 1999. It’s been a rough offseason for the Chargers so far as tight end Hunter Henry tore his ACL and is done for the year while corner Jason Verrett suffered a torn Achilles. Tight end Austin Roberts, who would have been in line for some action with Henry out, suffered a knee injury and was placed on IR. Cornerback Trevor Williams suffered an ankle injury and is banged up as well.
Philip Rivers, the grizzled veteran that has made 201 consecutive active starts and completed 360 of 575 passes for 4,515 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, likely won’t see the field much in this contest. The other two guys on the depth chart don’t inspire a ton of confidence: Geno Smith is 12-19 as a starter with more interceptions (36) than touchdowns (29) while Cardale Jones has thrown just 11 passes in the regular season and those came in 2016 with the Bills. With Melvin Gordon (1105 rushing yards, 8 TD, 58 receptions, 476 yards, 4 TD) and Austin Ekeler (260 rushing yards, two scores, 27 grabs, 279 yards, three scores) holding the top two spots in the running back pecking order, there’s not much to watch there. Mike Williams, the seventh overall pick last season, looks to make an impact at receiver after catching only 11 passes as a rookie. Who gets the reps at tight end should be interesting: Virgil Green is the most well-known name but isn’t much of a receiving threat. With Henry out, could the Chargers try to bring back Antonio Gates?
Arizona Cardinals Starting Over With Wilks
Arizona had their ups and downs last season but the team took a hit right out of the gate when David Johnson broke his wrist in the season opener. While there were some flashes from Adrian Peterson (who wasn’t resigned), the team sputtered in the ground game. Of course, there is an overhaul for a team that was 15th in the league in passing offense, 30th in rushing offense and averaged only 18.9 points per game. Bruce Arians retired as head coach while Carson Palmer hung it up after 15 years as well. Steve Wilks took over as the head coach while the quarterback situation has some fluidity to it.
The Cardinals are going to open the season with Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback. He played one full game and part of a second one before going down with a knee injury last season for Minnesota. In his absence, Case Keenum led the team to the NFC Championship Game and when the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins, he became expendable. Bradford has a ton of talent but he’s been unable to stay healthy in the NFL: he last played a full 16 game slate in 2012. Mike Glennon, who made four starts for the Bears last year and has 22 NFL starts under his belt, is in the mix as well, The Cardinals then drafted Josh Rosen from UCLA with the 10th overall selection. With Bradford being as fragile as Glass Joe on “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out”, you have to think he won’t play much. The same will be considered for Johnson as he’s coming back after missing almost all of last season. There will be plenty of competition for who starts opposite Larry Fitzgerald at receiver now that John Brown and Jaron Brown are both gone. It could be a chance for 6’6 receiver Carlton Agudosi to make an impact.
- Cardinals are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 home games
- Cardinals are 5-2-1 ATS in their last 8 games on grass
- Cardinals are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 Saturday games
- Chargers are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 Saturday games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Chargers are going to be cautious with their starters, especially given the fact that they have see a couple guys go down already. Losing Henry is a major blow to their passing game as he was showing signs of developing into a premiere pass catching threat before getting hurt. With Gates gone, there’s a lack of receiving options at the tight end spot. The Cardinals will pack Bradford in tissue paper, which will give Glennon extended run to try and impress in his team debut. With the backup QBs of the Chargers uninspiring to say the least, you have to lean toward the Cardinals in this one.
Prediction: Pick: Arizona Cardinals -2.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Los Angeles had a solid second half of the season last year under first-year coach Anthony Lynn and will try to build off that momentum. The Cardinals are dealing with an overhaul of their team, starting with a new duo of signal callers. Steve Keim was suspended five weeks by the team after he was arrested for extreme DUI and the team also has to work with a rookie coach in Steve Wilks. While the Chargers are going to have to figure out a succession pattern for Rivers, the Cardinals seem to have a plan in place, at least on paper. Whether things pan out remains to be seen but they seem to have put some thought process into things.
The under is 4-0 in the Chargers’ last 4 games on grass, 6-0 in their last six on the road, 8-1 in their last nine on Saturday and 16-5-1 in their last 22 games overall. Arizona has seen the under go 15-5 in their last 20 games at home and 8-3 in their last 11 games on grass. With Rivers and Bradford seeing little to no action in this one, it’s hard to generate a ton of excitement offensively, at least on the Chargers’ side. Look for this one to end up under the total by a couple of points.
Prediction: Under 36
Full-Game Prop Bet
There’s likely a lot of vanilla from coach Anthony Lynn and the Chargers in this one. Smith and Jones likely will do the majority of the heavy lifting for Los Angeles under center as it’s unlikely that Rivers sees much action at all, if any. With that in mind, and knowing the track record of that duo, plus the injury situation at tight end, this one stays under the number more than likely.
Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers Under 17 -120
Half-Time Side Pick
The Cardinals are rebuilding their team with a new head coach, a new QB and a slew of other new faces. It’s going to take some time for everything to jell and it remains to be seen whether Bradford can hold up for an extended run or not under center. Rosen will get his first NFL action in this one and the Cardinals have some capable pieces in place. Arizona should hold a slim edge at intermission.
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals -125
Half-Time Total Bet
This one is going to be a lot about plugging new pieces into spots to see what works and what doesn’t. Los Angeles has to figure out some pieces to see who can replace Henry at tight end because he and Antonio Gates were a dynamic part of the offense. Green is a good blocking tight end but he doesn’t have the pass catching chops that the previous duo does. Arizona is trying to rebuild on the fly but they should have the weapons in place to put up some points. This one goes over the number at the half as it’s something like a 14-10 game.
Prediction: Over 20 -110
Half-Time Prop Prediction
It will be interesting to see how much action Steve Wilks gives Bradford as he has to weigh giving him game action to utilize the system against the fact that he has serious injury issues. Los Angeles has mediocre secondary options at QB and with Rivers not likely to see much of the field, the Cardinals should get the upper hand at the half.
Prediction: Arizona Cardinals -1 -110