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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Both the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals moved forward to the cusp of something special last season. San Diego fixed what Norv Turnver had messed up by replacing him with Mike McCoy, and made it to the second week of the playoffs before losing to eventual AFC Champion Denver. Arizona won 10 games! But, that wasn’t enough to even earn a playoff spot in the tough NFC.

The tendency for football fans is to see progression. If a team takes a step forward one year, they expect the improvement to continue. Handicappers and statheads tend to go the other way. They expect regression…meaning teams move back toward where they came from. Monday Night’s intriguing matchup between the Chargers and Cardinals will give NFL followers an early look about which way things are going to go for both of these potential darkhorses.


2013 Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)

San Diego: 9-7 (#14 schedule in USA Today)

Arizona: 10-6 (#3 schedule in USA Today)

Talk about legitimate! No flukes there. San Diego had a winning record against a slightly above league average schedule. Then, they peaked at the right time in January…stunning AFC North champion Cincinnati on the road before losing a hardfought battle in Denver. Arizona might have won 11 games against a league average schedule! Brutal that the Cards are stuck in the NFC West with World Champion Seattle and the NFC Champs from two years ago San Francisco.


2013 Yards-Per-Play

San Diego: 5.9 on offense, 6.1 on defense

Arizona: 5.3 on offense, 4.9 on defense

San Diego does run into some trouble here. Though their defense was better in the playoffs, the team STUNK on that side of the ball most of the season. The Chargers aren’t a threat to Denver if they can’t play better defense. Knock that down to 5.5 or better…and they’re suddenly a league power. Arizona was great on defense, and a +0.4 differential per play is stellar against the #3 ranked schedule. You really should be thinking of BOTH as playoff teams from last year, even though Arizona didn’t quite make it. Clearly playoff caliber.


2013 Turnover Differential

San Diego: -2

Arizona: -1

Those numbers aren’t the end of the world. But, CHAMPIONS do much better. The best teams have defenses who force a lot of takeaways with aggression, and offenses who play smart while getting the better of the risk/reward ratio. San Diego needs to force more turnovers defensively. Arizona has to figure out how to make fewer on offense. Pay particular attention to those factors in the first month of action.


2013 Market Performance

San Diego: 9-6-1

Arizona: 11-5

As we discussed yesterday, quality teams cover spreads. The days of oddsmakers “overpricing” the best teams seem to be long gone. The market is tight, and sharp money respects underdogs so much that it misses favorites are offering value. That’s 20-11-1 combined for two franchise who lifted their games in 2013.


Current Line: Arizona by 3, total of 46.5


The market has toggled between Arizona -3 and -3.5 all summer. Sharps tend to prefer the hosts at the field goal…but three is such a common number that San Diego is seen as the percentage play with the hook. If the public bets the TV favorite during the day Monday, this one might close at -3.5. Once you make your final decision, find a store offering the best price for your side.

JIM HURLEY is really looking forward to Monday Night’s DOUBLEHEADER. Get the best options from Giants/Lions and Chargers/Cardinals right here at the website with your credit card in the hours leading up to kickoff. (And, don’t forget about pennant race baseball!) If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

No rest days for sports bettors now that football has started! Here’s the schedule for this week’s NOTEBOOK.

Tuesday: College Football Notes or an MLB Preview

Wednesday: NFL Notes or Royals/Tigers MLB ESPN Preview

Thursday: NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Friday: College Football Early Look…Georgia at South Carolina

Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Tennessee at Oklahoma

A lot of interesting developments in college football this past Saturday, and in the NFL Sunday afternoon. That will give us plenty to talk about in the days ahead! Visit daily for great handicapping information in the games everyone is talking about…and hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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