The Los Angeles Rams will host the Los Angeles Chargers as the new cross-city rivals square off in exhibition play Saturday night from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. For the first time since 1994, two L.A.-based teams will take the field for an NFL contest, in what has been deemed the ‘Fight for LA.’
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The Fight Defined…
Within the world of the four major competitive sports, Los Angeles is known for being a two-team city. In the NBA, the Lakers and the Clippers vie for supremacy. In the NHL, the Kings and the Ducks each chase the lion’s share of the fan base. In Major League Baseball, the Dodgers and the Angels compete for the LA spotlight. To use a Hollywood expression, LA sports teams are used to sharing the stage.
Once upon a time, Los Angeles was a two-team football town, as well. The Raiders and the Rams divided fans of the gridiron in the City of Angels until 1994, when the Rams departed for St. Louis. Just one year later, the Raiders followed them out of LA and returned to Oakland. For the next 21 years, Los Angeles remained without an NFL team.
With the Rams rejoining the Los Angeles landscape in 2016, the NFL had finally returned to L.A. While they had the spotlight all to themselves last year, the Rams will be competing for that bright light with a franchise that knows a thing or two about electricity. The Chargers (nee San Diego) are the new kids in town, and they are looking to mark their territory. Ladies and Gentlemen…let’s get ready to ‘Fight for LA.’
Keys to Victory: Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers are coming off of a dismal offensive performance in their 13-7 home loss to the Saints last Sunday. Quarterback Philip Rivers should see a good amount of playing time, after sitting out last week’s game. Melvin Gordon only made three carries for eight yards last week. However, he should benefit from having Rivers back under center. Overall, the Chargers could get nothing going on the ground last week, rushing for a team total of only 66 yards off 29 carries. Wide receiver Keenan Allen should see much more playing time, allowing Rivers to stretch the field. On the defensive side, Joey Bosa made one one tackle last week. Bosa is primed for a huge season after an outstanding 2016 rookie season that saw him record 10.5 sacks along with 41 tackles. Cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Desmond King will look to stop the Rams up-tempo attack, by providing strong coverage in the backfield.
Above all, the Chargers will need significant improvement from the offensive line, which played poorly (to say the least) against the Saints. The Rams defensive line will be eager to test Rivers, who will be in for a rough night if the o-line has another bad showing. Bottom line, it can’t be overstated that the offensive line will have the most to prove this week against the Rams.
Keys to Victory: Rams
The Los Angeles Rams used a strong first quarter to win their second straight preseason contest 24-21 over the Raiders last week. Jared Goff was tremendous, connecting on 16 of his 20 passes for 160 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. The 2016 first-overall draft pick has drawn a lot of criticism from his shaky play last season, making his performance last week a welcome sight. Backup quarterback Sean Mannion also looked good last week, throwing for 132 yards and one TD. The 25-year old QB tallied 144 passing yards in week one. Todd Gurley came through with a strong performance last week, racking up 38 rushing yards off eight carries, resulting in an average of 4.8 yards per carry. Former Buffalo Bills wideout Sammy Watkins made his first appearance in a Rams uniform and brought in two catches for eight yards. The 24-year old wide receiver was a big addition to the Rams receiving core as he instantly slides in as the Rams number one receiver. To win, the Rams will need to at least match, if not top, last week’s performance. With rookie wide-receiver, Cooper Kupp, out of action, it will be interesting to see if Tavon Austin might get the nod and see playing time this week.
The Chargers dropped a 13-7 decision to the Saints in week two, and the Rams are coming off a 24-21 road win over the Raiders last week. The Chargers hardly gave their first team offense any playing time last week, with Rivers sitting out and Melvin Gordon only seeing a few carries. In addition, many of the Bolts top receivers did not play much. All Chargers starters are expected to play at least the entire first half. The Chargers are the better offensive team with a lot more depth than the Rams. Rivers wins the battle of the quarterbacks over Jared Goff. Also, the Chargers defense was sharp last week, while the Rams conceded 21 points to the Raiders who had third string QB Connor Cook see a majority of the action. Still, the Rams have plenty of fire power of their own. In addition, Robert Quinn is likely to make his first appearance of the preseason on Saturday. If the Rams are to be victorious, they will need Quinn to get to Rivers.
Chargers 27, Rams 21.
Round One in the fight for LA goes to the Bolts, who have too much to prove, and too explosive of an offense to be held back, this week.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers.