Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals (-2.5, 36 o/u)
Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Arizona Cardinals boast solid defenses, but had serious issues finding the end zone last season. Their number one goal during the preseason will be to inject some rhythm and consistency into the offenses, especially in the passing game. The two playoff hopefuls will hook up tonight at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale (9:00 PM Eastern Time) for their first preseason game of the year.
One of the most cited stats of the offseason, Kansas City QB Alex Smith threw exactly zero touchdowns passes to his wide receivers last season. The front office brought in WR Jeremy Maclin from the Philadelphia Eagles to try to help him in the red zone. Smith, who is expected to play one quarter tonight, is confident the team will get the situation turned around this year.
”I feel really good,” said the ten-year vet to the Associated Press. ”It’s a point of emphasis for us all offseason. We worked hard on it, QBs and wideouts included. We worked really hard on it and I do feel good with where we’re at.”
After the first quarter, Smith will give way to a trio of SEC alums as Chase Daniel (Missouri), Aaron Murray (Georgia), and Tyler Bray (Tennessee) fight for the number two job.
Arizona had its own problems at the quarterback position after QBs Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton both went down with injuries in 2014. The pair had led the Cardinals to a 9-1 record over the first 11 weeks of the season; but once Arizona was forced to move on to its third stringer (Logan Thomas) and beyond (Ryan Lindley), the season took a drastic turn for the worse.
The team still snuck into the playoffs as a Wild Card team, but wound up posting an abysmal 78 yards of total offense, the lowest total for a playoff game in league history, during a 27-16 loss to Carolina.
A rejuvenated Palmer will be on the field for a series or two tonight, testing his injured knee. The USC product is, evidently, feeling confident in his oft-injured body heading into the year.
“There were mental hurdles the first time [I had knee surgery in Cincinnati], especially because of the way it happened,” Palmer said to the Arizona Republic. “I remember coming back and seeing — especially at the beginning of the season — seeing color flash in front of you and maybe not stepping into a throw, not trusting it or protecting the knee. I don’t feel that way now.”
Stanton will enter the year as the backup, but don’t expect him to log a lot of minutes early in the preseason, either, given what transpired last year. The Cardinals will do everything they can to enter Week 1 of the regular season with their two top pivots as healthy as possible.
That should mean Thomas and rookie Phillip Sims see the majority of the snaps tonight.
Looking at the betting trends, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has a particular bad record during the preseason, posting a 28-36 mark for his career; he’s 8-9 in the first week. On the Arizona sideline, Bruce Arians is 4-4 during the preseason, and 2-0 Week 1. Without much else to go on for this preseason game, take the more successful Arians and the home team; preseason wins clearly don’t mean much to Reid.
Pick: Cardinals (-2.5).
(Photo credit: Landry Heaton (flickr) “Arizona Cardinals Concept-White Pants” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)