When the Cardinals opted to depart from St. Louis and relocate to Arizona in 1988, developing a regular preseason rivalry with the Chargers only seemed a logical path to follow. The close geographic proximity of the two teams, plus the fact that they were in opposite conferences and therefore didn’t meet frequently during regular-season play combined to make this a natural rivalry for the NFL exhibition slate, and it’s been one of the most common games played annually in the preseason.
The Chargers and Cardinals have played in the preseason 12 times since 2000, and 16 times since the Cardinals headed to the Arizona desert. From 1976-88, when the Cardinals were still in St. Louis, the two teams met on just three occasions, all of them in San Diego. Overall, the Chargers own a 13-6 edge in the last 19 games between the two teams. At Arizona, the Chargers have won five consecutive preseason meetings and are 5-2 overall there.
Running The Table – In 2015, a quirk of scheduling saw the Cardinals faced the entire AFC West Division in NFL preseason play. Arizona opened up at home by blowing a 10-0 lead and losing 34-19 to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers were next up on the agenda, a game also played at Arizona. Josh Lambo’s field goal on the final play of regulation gave the Chargers a 22-19 victory.
The Cardinals traveled to Oakland and scored 20 fourth-quarter points to rally for a 30-23 win over the Raiders. In Denver, the Cardinals trailed 13-0 after one quarter, but rallied for a 22-20 victory on a Logan Thomas to J.J. Nelson 59-yard touchdown pass with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter.
New Deal Cards – The Cardinals who will await the arrival of the Chargers will bear a much different look than the team the Chargers last faced during the 2016 preseason. At the end of last season, Arizona’s All-Pro quarterback Carson Palmer announced his retirement from the NFL. Cardinals head coach Brian Arians also opted to call it quits. Sam Bradford, one of three QBs cast adrift by the Minnesota Vikings, is the new man under center for Arizona, and former Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steven Wilks is the new coach.
It’s A Dry Heat – The Chargers have certainly enjoyed their preseaon visits to the Arizona desert. They’ve won five straight games there from the Cardinals since 2004, and collected those victories in a variety of fashions. A last-play field goal gave them a 22-19 victory in 2015. They routed the Cardinals 24-7 in 2013 and 38-13 in 2004. They outscored the Cardinals 34-31 in 2011 and emerged victorious 17-6 from a defensive battle in 2009.
They Travel Well – The Cardinals have carried on a vagabond llifestyle during their pro football tenure. Way back when in 1920 when the NFL began its existence, the Chicago Cardinals were a founding franchise. They won NFL titles in 1925 and 1947, but eventually grew weary of sharing the city with the Bears, and moved to St. Louis in 1960. Enjoying little success there, the Cardinals were 0-3 in the playoffs and in 1988 headed west, originally to become the Phoenix Cardinals before going with the Arizona Cardinals handle since 1994.
The Chargers also know how to pack and unpack, and they’ve done a 360 journey in their football history. They were christened the Los Angeles Chargers as an original AFL franchise in 1960, they reached the AFL title game, but couldn’t compete with the NFL Rams and moved to San Diego in 1961, winning the AFL crown in 1963. Welcomed into the NFL in 1970 when the two leagues merged, the Chargers played in 23 playoff games in San Diego. They opted to return to L.A. in 2017, again sharing the town with the Rams.
Definition Of Dominance – The Chargers are in the midst of an eight-game preseason winning streak against the Cardinals extending back to 2004. Five of the wins were earned at Arizona, and three of them in San Diego. The average margin of victory during this eight-game run is 10 points, while the average total during the eight games is 39.75 points. The Cardinals have been held under 10 points four times and under 20 points six times.
Before That It Was In The Cards – Prior to this eight-game Chargers roll, it was the Cardinals who were dealing. They won three straight from the Chargers and four of five games played between 1996-2003, holding the Chargers to a combined total of 44 points in the four victories. But overall in preseason play, the Cardinals are a dismal 2-5 at home against the Chargers since they moved to Arizona in 1988. The Cardinals last won a home preseason game from the Chargers in 2001, a 16-3 triumph.
One And Done – In Super Bowl history there are three teams that are 0-1 in the big game and two of them are right here in this game. The Chargers, who’ve lost in the AFC Championship Game three times, got to Super Bowl XXIX and suffered a 49-26 drubbing at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. The Cardinals lost 27-23 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII when Santonio Holmes caught a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Tennesse Titans are the other team that is 0-1 in the Super Bowl.
So what are the chances of the Cardinals or Chargers making their second Super Bowl appearance to conclude the 2018 NFL season? Well, to tell the truth, not good. Bovada lists the Cardinals as +10000 to win Super Bowl LIII, tied with the Chicago Bears for the longest odds given on any NFC team. The Chargers, who came within a win of making the playoffs last season, are co-12th pick in the Bovada Super Bowl LIII future book at +2200.
BetOnline puts the Chargers at -145 to make the NFL playoffs during the 2018 season, the best odds given to any of the four NFC West Division teams. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are set at +800 odds to be a postseason participant in 2018, the longest odds assigned to any of the 32 NFL teams. The Cleveland Browns, 0-16 last season and 1-31 the last two seasons, are at +600 to make the playoffs. So there’s that, Cardinals fans.