If any Week 1 NFL game were to win an award for lightning-fast rematch, it’s tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals. How appropriate that “the bolts” won one half of the award. The second of two MNF games in Week 1, the Chargers / Cardinals game comes just one week after the two teams met in the preseason.
Week 4 in the preseason is very different from Week 1 of the regular season, so the lineups and results could be very different. The Arizona Cardinals, the home team for tonight’s MNF game, hope that’s not the case. Last week the Chargers beat the Cardinals 12-9 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Arizona enters the second of tonight’s two Monday Night Football games hoping quarterback Carson Palmer can continue his solid performance from the tail end of the 2013 season. Palmer struggled during the first half of the year but turned it around during the final eight games.
Leading his team to a 6-2 record to close out the year, Palmer threw 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions during that span. For the season he finished 362-for-572 for 4,274 yards and 24 touchdowns. The difference was establishing the running game early in each contest to open up Palmer’s passing options.
With running back Andre Ellington likely to play in tonight’s Chargers / Cardinals MNF game, that pattern could continue. Ellington left Thursday’s practice with a foot injury but saw limited reps Saturday.
The Cardinals coaching staff thinks Ellington could see playing time in tonight’s Monday Night Football double-header. Considering the second-year RB averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year, he’d be a valuable addition to tonight’s Monday Night Football lineup.
Getting that offense to click may be important, because Arizona will have some players watch MNF live from the sideline rather than participate on the field. The Cardinals had the seventh-ranked defense in the NFL last year, allowing just 20.2 points per game. Tonight they’re playing without their best defensive player, Daryl Washington, and they’re missing defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and Tyrann Mathieu.
That’s good news for the San Diego Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers. Rivers had a solid season and an even better preseason in 2013, going from a 105.5 QB rating during the regular season to a 116.9 rating in the playoffs. Will that momentum continue tonight and into the 2014 campaign? Playing against a weakened defense could give him the confidence to make that happen.
This second of two MNF games tonight will be shown live on ESPN starting at 10:20 EST / 7:20 PST. If you can’t catch the TV broadcast you can use the ESPN app on a video game console or watch Chargers vs Cardinals Monday Night Football online free stream on DirecTV’s website if you have the NFL Sunday Ticket MAX package. That package requires a subscription, but all subscribers can watch the game online free via the DirecTV live stream if they’re stuck watching MNF on a tablet, smartphone or PC.