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How Football Could Play Out In 2017 In Los Angeles

It’s Year 2 for the Rams back in LA. The landscape is more competitive with the Chargers in town. Here’s a month-by-month look at things.

Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers helmets Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting aspects of the 2017 Los Angeles Rams season is how the city of Los Angeles will react to the team in their second season after relocating from St. Louis.

The level of competition for attention in the sports zeitgeist in LA is incredibly high.

Los Angeles’ two most popular sports franchises are able of filling headlines ably before even giving the Rams a chance. The Lakers just took Lonzo Ball with the #2 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft making every sports TV executive eager to get his dad on television because this is America and this is what we do. The Dodgers are in first place (barely) in the NL West riding a six-game winning streak with rookie Cody Bellinger crushing the ball and Yasiel Puig crushing the unwritten rules of home run trot pacing. And that’s before we even get to football.

USC is hoping QB Sam Darnold leads them to the College Football Playoffs. UCLA is hoping QB Josh Rosen comes back season-ending injury in 2016 to lead the Bruins to winning football. Either could be the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. And now you’ve got a second NFL team in the Chargers in town. What they lack in a built-in fan base in LA they make up for with their offensive roster. For a team that finished 9th in scoring, they get WR Keenan Allen back from an ACL injury to go with a new starting left tackle in free agent signing Russell Okung and a draft class led by Clemson WR Mike Williams, Western Kentucky G Forrest Lamp and Indiana G Dan Feeney. In the #FightforLA, the Rams were granted the early lead thanks to a fan base caked in from two decades ago. That lead might well evaporate pretty damn quickly if the Chargers roll out a top 5 offense en route to a playoff berth next season. As ESPN Los Angeles morning show host Jorge Sedano put it in January:

So as I was putting together the Rams’ 2017 strength of schedule piece last week, I couldn’t help but think how it could play out in the Rams’ home market.

Here’s a stab at the month-by-month outlook:

August

Things kick off in earnest here with training camp underway and the preseason schedule opening, August 12.

The Chargers obviously will be on the same timeline with August 26 offering the banner contest between the two teams. No, it doesn’t matter who wins the game since...yanno, it’s the preseason. Yes, it will beg the question of who is set to win #FightforLA for 2017. Might as well just get ready for it.

On the college front, neither USC nor UCLA get started until early September, but expect hype to start building with camps starting on the 8th and 9th, respectively. That hype will only grow at the end of the month with the college regular season opening just prior to the NFL’s.

September

The Trojans get a soft entry into the 2017 regular season with Western Michigan, but the Bruins will get national attention facing Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl on Sunday night before the NFL season starts. UCLA has another big game on the 23rd heading north to play Stanford. And while USC has a light Week 1 opponent, their September features back-to-back home games against Stanford and Texas before a two-game road swing against Cal and Washington State led by QB Luke Falk.

Meanwhile at the pro level, the Rams and Chargers will each be three games deep. In my initial schedule win-loss predictions (which both the staff and I will update prior to training camp and the preseason and then again prior to Week 1, so stay tuned), I’ve got us going 2-1. The Chargers are at the Denver Broncos to open the season before home games against Miami and Kansas City. Tall task for them. I don’t think 0-3 is out of the question, but if there’s a home-field advantage for them (is that even possible for an NFL team playing at a stadium the size of the StubHub Center?) or if their depth chart is clicking out of the gate, perhaps they could keep pace with a hypothetical 2-1 start for the Rams.

The non-football news here is that the Dodgers regular season has just one game after September. Barring some legitimate late-season drama that would drown out a ton of other sports attention, they’ll know if they’re in the postseason or not by month’s end. The Angels are still in the mix for a wild card spot as it stands, so you could potentially have both LA baseball squads in action.

October

The Dodgers and Angels are either in the playoffs, soaking up eyes and ears and clicks, or they’ve ceded way to the rest of the market. The NBA is likely to tip off late in the month putting the Lakers and Clippers in action. The NHL hits a bit earlier with the Kings and Ducks forcing their way into local sports wrap-ups.

But it’s October. This is where football can and should begin to dominate the airwaves and printed page (yeah, it still exists). The Rams have four games in October leading into the bye week, though just one (Week 5 v. Seattle) is in the Coliseum. I’ve got us going 1-3 in that stretch which has us head to the bye at 3-4. Meanwhile, the Chargers’ October will likely define their season. Vs. Philly, at the Giants, at Oakland (still in Oakland...), vs. Denver, and at New England with the bye thereafter. Good luck. Before you count your chickens re: #FightforLA, the Chargers’ post-bye schedule could be a walk. If the Bolts can get to the bye near .500, the next two months could well position them for a post-season berth. That’s a big if, though.

Down in the draft pool ranks, it’s Pac-12 action largely dominating. USC deals with Oregon St., Utah and Arizona St. with a game against Notre Dame stuck in there for good measure. That matchup certainly doesn’t have the luster of years past with ND coming off of a wildly embarrassing 4-8 season, one of only two seasons in which they had less than five wins since 1963. UCLA gets road contests against Arizona and Washington sandwiched around an Oregon home battle. Suffice to say it’s easier to predict a stronger USC record by month’s end than one for UCLA, but I could see the Bruins as one of the surprise teams in the country if Rosen is back on his game ...and healthy.

Nothing’s certain for any of the four football teams, but USC is the likeliest to be sitting pretty heading into the final two months. I’d probably put UCLA in second there with my previous explanation holding the Rams and Chargers somewhere near the .500 waters for better or for worse.

November

This is where things will get very interesting. Depending on the earlier part of the playoffs, the World Series could be finished by the time November 1 rolls around.

The Rams have a tough four-game slate in November: at the Giants, home for the Texans, at the Vikings and back home for the Saints. Now, 0-4 isn’t out of the question, but I’ve got them going 2-2 with McVay’s magic starting to settle in.

I alluded to it above, but this is where the Chargers can clean up. They start the month with a bye in Week 9 (a week after the Rams’ bye) and then go to Jacksonville, back home for Buffalo, away to Dallas, and then back in LA against the Browns. If they don’t go 3-1 at a minimum, it’ll be a huge disappointment. That’s why I said they can go .500 pre-bye and sit pretty; a 3-1 run would put them at 7-5 going into December if they’re at 4-4 headed into their bye.

For the two major LA college programs, it’s all about November 18. UCLA heads to the Coliseum in what could be one of the biggest games of the college regular season. There are plenty of potential trip-ups for USC prior, though their only other November action being a home game against Arizona and a road trip to Colorado should be as much. It’s a tall lift, but USC could certainly head into Week 12 undefeated (NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING). UCLA’s road is perhaps easier, though with a weaker roster, the pitfalls are a bit deeper. A trip to Utah and a home game against Arizona State in November could easily trip up the Bruins. The latter is screaming “trap game” with USC looming a week later. Still, if they can pick up a season-opening win against A&M, UCLA could easily head to the Coliseum in the top 25.

It’s just my early projection, but this would put the Rams at 5-6 and nearly out of the playoffs mathematically. In terms of local attention, there are two things to consider. One is how much space sports media will give to the Rams versus the Chargers, USC and UCLA depending on how things are shaping up. At some point, a losing record is going to squeeze you out of most formats when you’re up against more successful options. Which alludes to the second point - at this point, losing is going to seep into the brand. Last year was built on novelty, on PR. The Rams are home. The losing could be scraped off onto Jeff Fisher as a convenient scapegoat. If 2017 goes awry before December even starts? A deluge of Jimmy Kimmel jokes and thinkpieces suddenly critical of Sean McVay and the like are going to be unavoidable. And with that USC-UCLA game holding the tentpole, November could well be an uncomfortable month for Rams fans.

December

Decembers have long been strange months for Rams fans. Usually relegated to using the month to prepare for a season 8 months away, rare has been the opportunity to enjoy football in the season it’s being played. Outside of the 2010 season in which rookie QB Sam Bradford took the Rams to Seattle in Week 17 with a chance to make the playoffs with a win, Decembers have not been a joyful exercise for more than a decade.

Will 2017 offer hope? It’s certainly a full month with five games for the Rams: at Arizona, home for Philly, a two-game road stretch against Seattle and Tennessee, and then back home to close out the season against San Fran. The important dynamic for the season in and of itself is that two of the Rams’ final three games are on the road. If they’re improbably in the mix for NFC postseason action, that stretch will loom with inevitable concern. Otherwise, it’ll be a familiar process for all but the newest of Rams fans.

The Chargers will deal with a similar dynamic with two of their last three on the road, but they’re preceded by a two-game homestead. Their December consists of a Cleveland-Washington home duo, a Kansas City-New York Jets pairing and a season finale at home against Oakland. Three out of five is the odds-on minimum. If the earlier scenario got them to seven wins, a three-win group here would grant them a 10-win season.

To me, there’s nothing more interesting than seeing #FightforLA play out in 2017, ESPECIALLY if this is how it goes down.

Meanwhile in the background, you’ll have the Pac-12 championship staging things for USC and UCLA on the first day of the month. If USC isn’t representing the South, it will be a pretty strong failure. If UCLA is repping the South, it’ll be a pretty massive upset. All that to say, there’s no wiggle room in December for this game. The curent odds-on projections have USC in the playoffs and UCLA in a mid-tier (and that might even be too nice) bowl game. Any deviation from this will be pretty unpredictable and would have a pretty major impact on the LA sports scene. Should it hold though, January 1’s playoff game will dominate discussions in the local sports media with the NFL teams in behind them.

Mid-season NBA action usually doesn’t interrupt football’s dominance through the calendar year, but it’ll be interesting to see how the market deals with the Lakers and Lonzo Ball’s rookie season in six months irrespective of what the four football teams are doing.


The last day of summer in 2017 is September 21. Professional sports in Los Angeles in fall of 2017 is going to be incredibly entertaining, and the Rams figure to be a major part of it, but the question is for how long.

The homecoming is already over. The #FightforLA is on and will be evidently so when the third preseason game rolls around and the Rams and Chargers are facing one another directly instead of the indirect war that’s underway. How Year 1 plays out is anyone’s guess. I honestly can’t wait to see how it plays out in real-time.

Because just looking at the calendar month-by-month? It’s gonna be a wild close to 2017 in LA.