With the San Diego Chargers scheduled to begin training camp on July 24, we take a closer look at the team's opponents for the 2014 regular season.
First up: Arizona Cardinals
When: The regular-season opener for both teams is on Monday night, Sept. 8, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Last season: The Cardinals finished 2013 with a 10-6 record, but missed the playoffs. Arizona was the only team to defeat the Super Bowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks, at CenturyLink Field last season, a 17-10 win on Dec. 22.
All-time series vs. Chargers: San Diego has a 9-3 record against Arizona during the regular season. The Chargers are 3-2 on the road against the Cardinals.
Last meeting vs. Chargers: San Diego defeated Arizona 41-10 at Qualcomm Stadium on Oct. 3, 2010. The last time San Diego played at Arizona, the Chargers lost 23-15 in on Sept. 22, 2002.
Super Bowl odds: 50-1
Key offseason additions: The Cardinals added some much-needed help to the offensive line with the addition of left tackle Jared Veldheer from Oakland. Arizona also signed former Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie to play opposite Patrick Peterson from the New York Jets. Talented return man Ted Ginn Jr. was brought in to bolster a receiving group led by Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. First-round selection Deone Bucannon is a hard hitter who should upgrade an already talented secondary.
Key offseason losses: Ginn replaces receiver Andre Roberts, who signed with Washington in free agency, as Arizona’s slot receiver. Underrated middle linebacker Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland. That loss is made worse by the fact that Pro Bowl linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the 2014 season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Tyrann Mathieu is not expected to return from a torn ACL until October.
The skinny: Quarterback Carson Palmer is in the final year of his contract, and he provided some stability at the most important position on the field for the Cardinals. He threw for over 4,000 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013. But Palmer turns 35 this December. He was sacked 41 times and threw 22 interceptions last season. Arizona needs a long-term answer at the quarterback position, and the team hopes fourth-round draft pick Logan Thomas can develop into that guy. Although he turns 31 in August, Fitzgerald remains one of the best receivers in the game, and the emergence of Floyd gives the Cardinals one of the best receiving tandems in the NFL.
But the Cardinals are led by their defense. Arizona finished as the No. 1 rushing defense last season, allowing just 84 yards a contest. Led by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Cardinals finished No. 6 in total defense in 2013. Arizona has one of the best cover corners in the game with Peterson. The LSU product finished with three interceptions and 13 pass deflections last season. Defensive linemen Calais Campbell (nine sacks) and Darnell Dockett (4.5 sacks) anchor one of the better defensive fronts the Chargers will face in 2014.