Two of the more intriguing teams in the NFL heading into the 2019 season meet up in a preseason game Thursday night, as the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals are listed as two-point favorites with an over/under of 35.5 points.
Arizona is coming off a forgettable season in 2018. They went 3-13, the worst record in the league, ultimately leading them to dump head coach Steve Wilks and quarterback Jose Rosen and replace them with Kliff Kingsbury and top overall pick Kyler Murray. Naturally, that’s created some excitement heading into 2019, even if the Cardinals have a long way to go.
On the other hand, most people forgot how good the Chargers were in 2018. Despite drawing little fan interest in Los Angeles, the Bolts were 12-4, matching Kansas City’s record atop the AFC West. However, after winning a road playoff game in Baltimore, the Chargers were blasted by the Patriots in the divisional round.
Taking It Easy
For their first preseason game, the Chargers aren’t going to do anything special. Most of their veterans probably won’t play much, if at all. That includes quarterback Philip Rivers, who has nothing to prove and doesn’t need four preseason games to be ready for the season. Of course, the Chargers have a nice contingent of backup quarterbacks in Tyrod Taylor and Cardale Jones, who have enough experience to fare well in a preseason game.
The other thing to watch for the Chargers is the absence of Melvin Gordon, who is holding out and looking for a trade. On the bright side, Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will have no problem getting carries. Jackson showed enough last season to make you think that he could excel in preseason action, especially against an Arizona defensive line that looks a little suspect.
The New King
For Arizona, this preseason game is all about watching Murray operate in Kingsbury’s offense for the first time. How much of his offense Kingsbury shows in the first preseason game remains to be seen, as does how much Murray will actually play. But we should get a glimpse of last year’s Heisman winner, and as a rookie who’s expected to start right away, Murray should play more than most starters do early in the preseason.
The concern for the Cardinals is what happens when the starters come out. Arizona is not a team with a lot of depth on either side of the ball. Brett Hundley is the backup quarterback and should get most of the action, but even against the Los Angeles backups, there’s no guarantee he’ll move the ball. Moreover, the Cardinals have mostly rookies and unproven players among their backup wide receivers. With Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson unlikely to play much, both Murray and Hundley will have equally inexperienced skill players around them.
How Deep Can You Go?
Early preseason games are all about depth, and the Chargers definitely have more of it than the Cardinals. Arizona being a two-point favorite isn’t a ringing endorsement of them, especially at home. Bet on the Chargers to beat the Cardinals in Thursday’s preseason game.