Fistfights between teammates, star running backs expelled to injured reserve, peculiar betting-market patterns — it’s all here in our Monday Night Football injury preview. The Los Angeles Chargers travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints in their quadrennial interconference matchup. Before getting down at the sportsbook, always check out our injury news to find out who punched whom, who ripped what, and which way to bet on tonight’s game.
|Game: Los Angeles Chargers (1-3) vs New Orleans Saints (2-2)
Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Time: 8:15 p.m. ET
Sean Payton has coached the Saints for so long, this is his fourth time facing the Chargers, a team they’re scheduled to play only every four years. This time when he looks across the field, he won’t see Norv Turner (or even Mike McCoy). Instead, he’ll see Anthony Lynn, and know that Anthony Lynn sometimes does Norv Turner things. (For the uninitiated, “Norv Turner things” are bone-achingly stupid coaching decisions, more often than not made closer to the ends of halves and games.)
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Once the Chargers re-inflate QB Tyrod Taylor and rehabilitate him back to health, they’ll have a good problem on their hands: two viable quarterbacks. For now, they appear to be delighted with the losing results of Justin Herbert, largely because it’s not Herbert’s fault, and he’ll be making his fourth start.
Last week the Chargers opened the game strongly with RB Austin Ekeler who had two carries for 12 yards, a short catch out of the backfield, and promptly gave himself a grade-two hamstring strain all the way to his knee. He’ll be staying home, and the Chargers’ backfield consists of a rookie, a third-year backup and the guy from the practice squad.
Also out again this week is the right side of the O-line, as the team deemed RG Trai Turner (groin) and RT Bryan Bulaga (back) both out. Last week’s replacements Ryan Groy and Trey Pipkins were acceptable.
In the Chargers’ questionable category are two players: DE Joey Bosa injured his triceps during last game, was limited in practice and listed questionable; stand-out WR Mike Williams may be back, having practiced in limited fashion Friday and Saturday. Both players are worth confirming on the pregame inactive list.
If you checked in with the Saints on Saturday, their final practice day leading to Monday’s game, you’d have read largely positive reports about how a number of players were working their way back from injury, not the least of which was WR Michael Thomas. Saints’ faithful bemoaned their two-game losing skid after he left the season opener with a high-ankle sprain. But now the reports came that he successfully practiced the entire week. Although limited, it was a clear sign he would be active come Monday.
So that didn’t work out. By the end of practice, things got heated between Thomas and backup safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. According to sources, Thomas threw a punch at Gardner-Johnson and presumably all hell broke loose. The altercation happened after the portion of practice open to the media, and teams playing Monday are not required to post their final injury reports until Sunday.
Come that afternoon at deadline, they posted news that Thomas was listed out as a “coach’s decision” and, just to be perfectly clear, his “change in game status is not injury related.” A short while later, NFL tweethound Adam Schefter broke the news behind the in-team suspension.
Actual Injury News
So much for Michael Thomas’ return to give an already-thin Saints’ receiving corps that just lost WR Deonte Harris (hamstring) some relief. Harris is also listed as out, as is CB Justin Hardee, a depth special-teams player.
What was supposed to be the good news story for the Saints (and still could be) is the potential return of four starters from injury: TE Jared Cook, DE Marcus Davenport, CB Marshon Lattimore and LG Andrus Peat. Having missed Week 4, all of them practiced in limited fashion and are listed questionable. Best guess is all four are odds on to play. They should be checked against the inactives list when it’s released.
Another name to review is DT Sheldon Rankins. He had no issue whatsoever until Saturday, when he missed practice completely due to an undisclosed issue with his thumb. His actual availability is up in the air.
Books opened the game last Monday with New Orleans at -7½ flat. Early bets came on the Saints, and the -7½ got juiced up to around -120. All week long it sat unchanged. Then, on Saturday morning, before New Orleans’ final practice, a bunch of money came for the Saints. It was enough to push the line past the 7½ threshold and into the loose range of eight into nine. For good measure, around the same time the media was reporting on the practice, even more money Saints’ money showed up, notching it a bit higher.
A few hours later, the presumed locker room-clearing brawl capped off the week of practice at the Saints’ facility. In what is most certainly a complete coincidence, money came back hard for the Chargers. The line crashed back down to 7½ and will likely close closer to seven flat. (Worth noting, all these line moves occurred nearly a full day before the suspension was made public and its backstory revealed by Schefter.)
We’d take the juiced +7½ if it’s still available (and if it is, hurry) or even +7 flat. We’d also advise checking the pregame inactive report to see if all four Saints’ questionables are a go. If so, we’d expect to see some Saints’ betting support (and wouldn’t disagree with it if they’re all playing).
The total opened at 51 and has since come down to 50. This happened right around the same time it was known that Thomas would not be suiting up for the game. We don’t have a strong opinion but could lean either way if the game-time inactive list has a lopsided cluster of either offensive or defensive scratches.