We’ve seen several scheduling oddities this preseason and the Los Angeles Chargers are presented with another. Not only do the Bolts get the NFC West during the regular season, the preseason slate has three games against the division. After playing the Cardinals and Seahawks in the first two exhibition games, the Chargers end the preseason with a Week 4 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. The two teams are also scheduled to play in Southern California in Week 4 of the regular season.
This duel in Week 4 of the preseason is scheduled to take place on Thursday, August 30, 2018, at 10 p.m. ET from Levi’s Stadium.
NFL Opening Odds at BookMaker.eu
Los Angeles Chargers +3
San Francisco 49ers -3
Cover your eyes and throw a dart to pick a winner in this one. Both coaches aren’t concerned about the outcome and position battles have been decided for the most part. The Niners are favored by the value of home field advantage opening at -3 with a total of 35.5.
We won’t get Philip Rivers against Jimmy Garoppolo in this one. That matchup will have to wait until the end of September when the game counts. Instead, the Chargers will trot out Cardale Jones and Geno Smith as the two continue their battle to be the primary backup. Jones will likely get the start and play the first half after his outing last week was cut short with a groin injury. He was 1 of 3 for 13 yards and a sack in his two series.
Smith did nothing to improve his chances. Taking over at the start of the second half, he was 7 of 11 for 45 yards with a pick-six. Smith has better numbers overall throwing for 348 yards on 27 of 42 passing with two scores. He does have a pair of picks and was sacked five times. Jones has completed only 52.6 percent of his throws with 4.7 yards per attempt. Nic Shimonek is the fourth QB on the roster and could get some reps if the game gets out of hand.
The Niners would rather take a good look at Nick Mullens than risk injury to backup C.J. Beathard, so expect the second-year player out of Southern Miss to get plenty of work on Thursday. Mullens was 4 of 6 for 62 yards in last week’s game against the Colts, and he’s completed nearly 81 percent of his passes for 290 yards this preseason. He has been bitten by the interception bug with three picks among his five incomplete passes.
We know Garoppolo won’t play and Beathard will likely call it a preseason after a strong showing in Indy. Bobby’s grandkid hit 7 of 8 throws for 83 yards, but failed to get any points. The Niners have a fourth QB, but nobody noticed since he hasn’t played. This could be the opportunity for rookie Jack Heneghan to see his first action of the preseason.
Players to Watch
Teams typically don’t worry about their kicker until he misses a few kicks. But the problems were so pronounced for the Chargers last season that the position likely cost them a chance at making the playoffs. Four different players attempted field goals last season and they all missed at least one while combining to misfire on a total of 10 kicks.
The preseason battle between Caleb Sturgis and Roberto Aguayo was extended another week after the Chargers offense failed to get into field goal range and tallied just one touchdown. Sturgis nailed the PAT and also got touchbacks on two kickoffs. The competition will come down to Thursday’s final exhibition game and hopefully the Bolts get a chance to use their kickers.
Free ATS Pick
We’re not going to see many regulars on the field, but both coaches would like to see something different than what they saw last week. It’s doubtful they get it with the reserves taking over. The Bolts’ second- and third-teamers crumbled last week and might not be as strong as the Niners. That’s something to consider when thinking of a wager on this matchup.
Otherwise there isn’t much difference between the two. The Chargers might have the edge behind center with Smith and Jones battling for the backup job. Kyle Shanahan’s history suggests that Mullens and Heneghan will share snaps, and that could be the deciding factor. This is really a tossup, but I think the quarterback play of the Chargers will be the difference.
NFL Betting Odds: Chargers 20, 49ers 16
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