By Dave Thomas
When the San Diego Chargers meet up with the Arizona Cardinals next Monday evening (7:20 p.m. PST) in the desert, you won’t be able to argue the two teams don’t know each other.
While the NFL schedule is made up of mostly interesting and logical match ups, the 2014 slate certainly had a quirk or two in it. Most notably, the Chargers first two regular season opponents – Arizona and Seattle – are a pair of teams they met in the preseason.
In the preseason finale last Thursday evening in San Diego, the Bolts kicked their way to a 12-9 win over the NFC West Cardinals – yes, the same team they will face come Monday in Glendale. Not sure what the NFL was thinking, but at least fans of both teams will be familiar with one another very quickly.
Arizona looks to make NFC playoffs
After posting a solid 10-6 record a season ago, the Cardinals are hoping an equal or better record sends them to the post-season this time around.
Despite that record in 2013, the Cardinals sat home during the playoffs, watching division rivals Seattle and San Francisco play for the NFC Championship, with the Seahawks eventually capturing their first-ever title in a rout of Denver.
This year’s edition of the Cardinals looks to veteran QB Carson Palmer (passed for 4,274 yards, 24 TD’s, 22 INT’s in his first season with Arizona) once again to lead the way, along with one of the game’s best wide receivers in All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald. On the ground, the Cardinals turn to second-year running back Andre Ellington (118 rushes, 652 yards in 2013) to lead the way.
Defensively, Arizona suffered several setbacks in the preseason, most notably the injury to defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.
Picked first by the Cardinals in the 2004 NFL Draft, Dockett suffered a season-ending right knee injury in camp, an injury for which he had successful surgery last week.
The team, which finished last season with the sixth-best defense in the NFL, must also replace inside linebacker Karlos Dansby (6.5 sacks, 4 INT’s in 2013), now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
No easy start to the season
Arizona has quite the schedule to open its first four games of 2014, hosting San Diego, visiting the New York Giants, home to San Francisco, then taking a trip to the Mile High City to meet the Denver Broncos.
While the Chargers once again have high aspirations in the AFC West, the Cardinals will do the same in the NFC West.
For long-suffering Arizona fans, 2014 might be the season where they truly have something to cheer about when all is said and done.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.