All eyes will be on Glendale, AZ when the Arizona Cardinals take on the San Diego Chargers in the second half of a Monday Night Football double header. Expectations are high for both teams heading into the 2014 campaign as the Chargers are coming off a surprising playoff berth a year ago while the Cardinals narrowly missed making the postseason.
Although it’s only Week 1 of the regular season, Monday’s matchup is a pivotal one for Arizona. The Cardinals will need to navigate through one of the tougher schedules in the NFL and protecting their home field will be essential to a successful campaign.
Despite making the playoffs a year ago, San Diego once again appears to be flying under the radar. QB Philip Rivers returned to form in 2013 under new head coach Mike McCoy, who came over from the Denver Broncos. McCoy’s new offensive scheme rejuvenated the Chargers’ offense and Rivers was the main beneficially throwing for nearly 4,500 yards and 33 touchdowns with a QB Rating of 105.5.
Meanwhile in Arizona, the focus has been on the Cardinals’ tremendous defense which ranked first in the NFL against the run a year ago, surrendering less than 85 yards per game. That defense, however, took a big hit with DT Darnell Dockett went down with a season-ending injury a few weeks ago. Despite the loss, a handful of playmakers led by CB Patrick Peterson still remain.
San Diego pass offense vs. Arizona pass defense
As previously noted, the Cardinals are stout against the run, but aren’t as good in pass defense. Arizona upgraded its secondary bringing in Antonio Cromartie, but questions still remain in the back half of the defense. If Rivers and company can find success through the air early, that could open things up enough for San Diego to dictate the flow of the game. Look for Keenan Allen and Malcom Floyd to test the Arizona secondary early and often on Monday night.
Arizona run offense vs. San Diego run defense
It looks like RB Andre Ellington won’t play, and won’t be 100 percent even if he does. That leaves the onus on Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor. Dwyer is a capable fill-in, but lacks the breakaway speed that Ellington possesses. Taylor is a little quicker but still not up to par with Ellington. The Cardinals will likely take a running back-by-committee approach to fill the shoes of Ellington and they’ll need to find some openings to help out Carson Palmer and the passing game.
Line: Cardinals -2.5
The Chargers are 4-0-1 ATS (against the spread) in the last 5 September games.
The Chargers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games.
The Chargers are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
The Cardinals are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games in Week 1.
The Cardinals are 0-4 in their last 4 Monday night games.
The Cardinals are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
This appears to be a close matchup between two teams that should contend for playoff spots in their respective conferences. Both the Cardinals and Chargers have taken similar paths to this point – exceeding expectations a year ago under a first-year head coach – with even higher aspirations entering year two of those regimes. At full strength, it would be hard to bet against Arizona at home, but the loss of Dockett and the potential loss of Ellington will be too much to overcome. Also throw in the fact that the Cardinals have failed miserably on Monday Night Football leads to San Diego being the pick.
Pick: San Diego +2.5
Final Score: San Diego 27 Arizona 17
Monday Night Preview: Cardinals vs. Chargers
CardinalsSource Top Stories
Cardinals' defense locks down SeahawksFor the second straight week, the Arizona Cardinals didn't allow a touchdown.
Kicking game errors lead to tieThe Arizona Cardinals missed a pair of field goals including a game-winning 24-yard attempt in overtime Sunday.
Instant analysis: Missed chances lead to tieThe Arizona Cardinals' offense and special teams units let down a defense that kept Seattle's offense in check throughout the night.
CardinalsSourceYesterday at 7:10 PM
Palmer 'fine,' Brown doubtful for SundayArizona Cardinals' wide receiver John Brown was diagnosed with a sickle-cell trait that has been causing pain in his legs.
CardinalsSourceFriday at 1:24 PM
Bettcher breaks down Seahawks' offenseArizona Cardinals' defensive coordinator thinks both Russell Wilson and Jimmie Graham are back to full health for a Seattle offense that needs them to play their best.
CardinalsSourceFriday at 8:25 AM