San Diego Chargers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
NFL Football Week 1
Date and Time: Monday Night Football, September 8, 2014 at 10:20pm EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
by Scotty L, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD +3/AZ -3
Over/Under Total: 44.5
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On Monday Night Football, the San Diego Chargers come into Glendale to face the Arizona Cardinals. It will be the second of two MNF games, hence the late 10:20 EST start. These teams may lack some of the marquee-value of other teams. But when you look at how each team closed the 2013 season, it is clear these are teams we should be watching.
The Cardinals, who missed the playoffs with a 10-6 record, won 7 of their last 9 games and looked great at points late in the season. The Chargers, meanwhile, overcame a 4-6 start to win five of their last 6 to get in the playoffs, where they won a road game at Cincinnati, before falling to the high-flying Broncos in a competitive game. So, while we may not hear a lot about these teams when the topic of the NFL elite comes up, they should both have successful 2014 seasons.
After a pair of down years, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had one of his best seasons last year. There is little reason to forecast a downturn this season. The run game is led by Ryan Mathews, who while dicey at times, still put together a 1200+-yards season and was fairly dependable. Danny Woodhead returns after a good first season in San Diego, where he was second on the team in both rushing and receptions. Donald Brown is productive and should chime in with some big plays this season.
Rivers will depend on an elite passing-attack that could even be better in 2014. Antonio Gates is still a premier tight end and Ladarius Green is another productive, pass-catching tight end. Keenan Allen is back after a huge rookie season. Eddie Royal is a nice piece of manpower. Returning Malcom Floyd is a handful if he can stay healthy. Add Vincent Brown and rookie Tevin Reese to the mix and you see that this offense could be special. The line did a good job last year despite constant reshuffling and should be very serviceable once again in 14.
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The Cardinals counter with Carson Palmer under center. Its hard to believe, but Palmer is in his 12th year already and is who he is. Hell turn the ball over more than youd like to see (22 INT in 2013), but he surely deserves some of the accolades for the Cardinals turnaround last season. Look for RB Andre Ellington to grow this season with added responsibilities, with tough Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor also chiming in.
Arizona has a two-headed monster at receiver with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd, who in his third season, may be more of the featured ball-catcher in the Cardinals offense. They will need a few more guys to step up as playmakers. But the line, which got better in 2013, should be better this year. They get former first-round guard Jonathan Cooper back from injury and add T Jared Veldheer from Oakland to help bolster what should be a solid front and a good offense.
The real questions for Arizona are on the other side of the ball, where they endured a particularly difficult offseason. The front seven looked a lot better at the end of last season, as opposed to now. They suffered a massive loss on the line with the season-ending injury (ACL) suffered by Darnell Dockett. They lost LB Karlos Dansby to free agency and LB Daryl Washington to a yearlong suspension. And their leading sack leader LB John Abraham had some off-the-field issues and just reported to camp a few weeks ago.
Arizonas ability to continue their upward trajectory will come down to how well the defense can fill in the gaps. The secondary is a dynamic unit, but might not be allowed to do their thing if forced to pick up the slack from the tattered line and linebacking corps. If some youngsters can perform up front and some free agent signings can bloom in this new system, they should be okay. Its just a lot of spots to fill, where established quality pieces are being replaced with question marks.
The San Diego defense, however, seems to be a rising unit. Corey Liuget is becoming a game-changer at DT. Linebackers Donald Butler and improving Manti Teo should be factors and if former top pick Melvin Ingram can remain healthy, watch out! They added two good corners to aid good safety play in the secondary, with the signing of Brandon Flowers and first-round rookie Jason Verrett. This defense got better in the second half and with added pieces, should be pretty good in 2014.
With the Chargers, it isnt always about the available talent. They have long been one of the worst teams when it comes to putting opponents away and winning games they should win. You saw a little less of that under then-first-year head coach Mike McCoy last season, but its still an area that needs improvement. Anyone who has watched the Chargers closely in recent years (and even before that), knows they are not always a team that gets the most of what they have. That could cost them against a scrappy team like the Cardinals.
The Chargers, however, have a few things going for them in this game, even when considering that NFL offenses dont always hit the ground running in week one. simply, they have a more reliable force at quarterback with a wider variety of tools. And the defense, while far from spectacular, is at least intact. The Cardinals will be good, but it may take a bit before they straighten out some issues. The feeling here is that San Diego is more primed to begin the season at close to full-strength, enabling them to cover the spread in Arizona.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the San Diego Chargers plus 3 points.