Bettors Say Take Arizona Plus The Points in Sunny San Diego
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It doesn’t matter if LaDainian Tomlinson reaches the end zone or not, the San Diego Chargers are finding all kinds of ways to win.
The Chargers look to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they host the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season finale for both teams on Sunday.
Oddsmakers have made San Diego -14 point spread favorites
Tomlinson didn’t score last week for the first time in nine games, but San Diego still beat Seattle 20-17 for its ninth straight victory. The Chargers (13-2) have recorded the winningest season in franchise history thanks in large part to Tomlinson, who has rushed for a team-record 1,749 yards and scored an NFL-record 31 touchdowns, but he wasn’t needed to keep the winning streak alive.
Vincent Jackson caught two touchdown passes, including a 37-yarder with 29 seconds remaining to lift the Chargers.
“I’m just as happy seeing other guys score than when I score,” said Tomlinson, who needs 187 yards from scrimmage to break Marshall Faulk’s NFL record of 2,429, set in 1999. “People expect me to score so much sometimes that it’s kind of a relief when other people do it.”
San Diego can clinch the AFC’s top seed with a victory over the Cardinals or if Baltimore loses to Buffalo at home earlier on Sunday. The Ravens beat the Chargers 16-13 on Oct. 1 and would hold the tiebreaker if the teams finished tied.
San Diego already has a first-round bye for the first time since 1994, when it advanced to its only Super Bowl, but hasn’t had home-field advantage since 1980, when it lost 34-27 to Oakland in the AFC championship game.
“Now it’s one game to determine if everything is coming through San Diego,” Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers told the team’s official Web site. “I don’t think there is any reason for a letdown. We’re playing at home and obviously the place will be cranked up.”
After struggling in Seattle, Rivers will be happy to return to Qualcomm Stadium, where he’s 7-0 as a starter.
His first completion last week didn’t come until 3:18 remained in the first half, when he connected with Jackson for the Chargers’ first touchdown, and he finished 10-of-30 for 181 yards. Two weeks ago, the Pro Bowler was only 8-for-23 for 97 yards and two interceptions in a 20-9 win over Kansas City.
“I think struggle is a misused word,” the first-year starter said. “I am not denying that I haven’t played my best football … but I think that the key stat is obviously we have won nine in a row.”
Shawne Merriman had three sacks against Seattle and is tied with Green Bay’s Aaron Kampman for the league lead with 15 1/2. Merriman needs two sacks to tie Gary Johnson’s club record, set in 1980, despite the fact he missed four games because of an NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer needs one victory to become only the fifth coach in NFL history with 200 regular-season wins. He is 6-1 in his career against the Cardinals, including a 23-15 win over Arizona in 2002, the last meeting between the teams.
Arizona (5-10) has rebounded from an eight-game losing streak that left the team 1-8 to win four of its last six games. The Cardinals eliminated San Francisco from playoff contention with a 26-20 victory last Sunday and finished 4-2 in the NFC West, the best mark in the division despite being in last place.
Still, despite the recent progress, this could be the final game for Dennis Green as Arizona’s coach. He has one year left on a four-year, $10 million contract, but the Cardinals have gone 16-31 in his first three seasons and already have secured their seventh season in eight years with at least 10 losses.
“I never regret anything,” Green said. “It’s just not part of my makeup. It really isn’t. I know I’m a very blessed man. I’ve been in the game a long time and had a lot of success in the game, so I don’t have to operate with regrets. All I know is that every day I’ve done the best I could do.”
Kurt Warner will start for the Cardinals on Sunday after Matt Leinart sprained his left shoulder before halftime in last week’s win. Though the injury won’t require surgery, the rookie from USC will sit out the final game.
Warner, who announced Wednesday he plans to return for the 2007 season, went 9-of-13 for 105 yards in his first action since losing the starting job after Week 4. He threw for 390 yards and four touchdowns in his only previous start against San Diego, a 57-31 win in 2000 when he was with St. Louis.
“We just want to finish the season finally playing the way we wanted to play the whole year,” Warner said. “I think they know what I can do, but when you sit out for 10 weeks, even you aren’t sure how you’re going to feel, what the speed of the game is.”
Arizona has lost six straight and 16 of its last 19 games against AFC teams. The Chargers lead the all-time series 7-3.
By: Staci Richards – theSpread.com – Email Us
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