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Los Angeles Rams vs. Los Angeles Chargers: The Professor’s preview

The Kroenke/Spanos grudge match comes to the Coliseum...

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Authors Note: As a lifetime Los Angeles Rams fan who understands what its like to have your home team ripped from you by ownership and out of respect to our friends in San Diego and the travesty they have been forced to endure, the Los Angeles Chargers will be referred as “Spanos’ Chargers.”


The Los Angeles Rams come off an impressive dominating performance against the Arizona Cardinals now face the Spanos’ Chargers this Sunday.

Let there be no mistake. The Rams’ defense is going to be challenged as the Chargers have one of the better offenses in the league led by QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon and WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. In order for the Rams to win this game, the Rams defense has to keep the Chargers to under 20 points. The Spanos’ Chargers defense will be without all pro DE Joey Bosa so I would expect the Rams to score their league average of 33 points.

Absent turnovers and unforced penalties assuming the Rams’ offense and defense play up to their expectations, there is no reason they shouldn’t come out with a win.

The Rams cannot take the Chargers lightly even though they are coming off of an unimpressive win against the Buffalo Bills who started rookie quarterback Josh Allen. That came off the back of a humiliating ten-point loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chargers just aren’t same team on defense without Bosa.

The unit ranks 9th in yards allowed per game, 13th against the rush and 14th against the pass, compared to the Rams offense which ranks 7th in yards per game, 10th in rushing and 13th in passing. I know that Rams Head Coach Sean McVay will come up with a gameplan which will put up the points needed for victory so I’m not concerned about that.

What the Rams need to do on offense

Ram fans know that the offense is all about RB Todd Gurley. Todd didn’t have a great rushing game against the Cardinals last week, but numbers can be misleading. He’s a force that must be accounted for whether its on the ground or in the passing game.

The Rams need to get Todd going early again. The Rams offensive line, which has been one of the best in the league thus far in 2018, needs to do a better job of opening up lanes for Todd to go through which they didn’t do terribly well last week against the Arizona. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this issue will get fixed this week.

But the key to offensive production will be what the Rams do on third down. To me the most important offensive stat is third down efficiency. Great teams make the crucial third down needed to keep drives going.

The Rams performed exquisitely on third downs last week against the Cards by the Rams with QB Jared Goff and his outstanding group of WRs: Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. This unit made some terrific catches which kept critical offensive drives alive.

When defenses are forced to crowd the first down marker on third down due to consistency, invariably big plays open up for bigger gains. The Rams need to continue from where they left off last week. It starts with good protection and a running game leading to third and short allowing for easy makeable first downs.

I would like the Rams to have long drives in this game in order to keep the Spanos’ Chargers’ offense off the field. As long as the offense stays away from the turnovers and penalties taking time off the clock, the Rams offense will score points. And it all starts with Gurley. If the Rams can get him going in the run game, then these long drives are guaranteed success.

What the Rams need to do on defense

As long as the Rams keep RB Melvin Gordon in check on the ground, I don’t expect the Chargers to rely on a dink and dunk passing game. This is because they have one of strongest and fearless quarterbacks in the NFL: Philip Rivers. He’s not afraid to take a hit.

That being the case, its time for our “Fearsome Threesome” to step up on the defensive line.

The Rams are still looking for that edge rusher, and this is game where the Rams need to find that guy. Without a edge rush, the Rams could well be vulnerable to the pass, but I have the upmost confidence in Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips who has a lot familiarity with the Chargers offense being the former defensive coordinator for fellow AFC West brethren Denver Broncos, Wade knows how to stop the Chargers.

It’s also a bit of “pick your poison” between CBs Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters both of whom also came out the AFC West. It’s important for the Rams’ secondary to blanket the Chargers receiving corps. When the coverage is there and the rush develops, look for the Rams to finally breakout of the sack slump.

In my youth, the San Francisco 49ers used to have a quarterback named John Brodie. My mother used to call him “Rabbit Ears.” The reason she coined this nickname for him was his tendency to allow his emotions to affect his game play. The one thing that got Brodie riled up was the great Los Angeles Rams DE Deacon Jones. When he got to Brodie, it was game over. Brodie would yell at his offensive line and wide receivers and he’d then throw his helmet off as he stormed off the field onto the bench.

I have watched Phillip Rivers for a long time. To me, this is one flaw in his game, and it’s a big one. He doesn’t know how to control his emotions just like Brodie.

Once he gets off his game because of the rush, takes a sack, throws a bad ball or an interception, he blames everyone except himself. He starts complaining and loses focus of the job at hand. This is what separates him from QB Tom Brady. Brady gets mad, yells at players and coaches, but that’s it. He gets it out right then and there. He doesn’t allow his emotions to carry over into the next series. That’s not the case with Rivers.

If the Rams defense can control the ground game, limit the “dink and dunk” with tackles a the point of contact, and the Rams “Fearsome Threesome” can be fully unleashed upon Rivers, THIS GAME IS IN THE BAG.

By forcing the bad throws down the field, getting those sacks causes Rivers to become very uncomfortable in the pocket. Once that happens, Rivers unravels. His temper flares up. This is exactly what the Rams defense must do against one of the better offenses in the NFL, and this is what excites me the most about this game.

The fact that its time to unleash our monster defensive line headed by DT Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh upon Rivers.

“Down Goes Rivers!’ And on the next series “Down Goes Rivers!” And the series after that “Down Goes Rivers!” and there’s nothing the Chargers offensive line can do to stop it.

What the Rams need to do on special teams

I’m not too concerned with the Rams’ special teams. Having seen replacement K Sam Ficken perform last year coming in for starting K Greg Zuerlein, I believe he’s a competent kicker.

I also know that P Johnny Hekker is the best in the league. If the Rams’ offense struggles, he will kick those beautiful punts inside the ten-yard line.

The one performance which has to be duplicated is PR JoJo Natson getting big returns. If JoJo does as well as he did last week, the Rams are in a good spot to win this game comfortably. If not, it will be up the offense and defense to perform to the levels Ram fans are accustomed too.

The Chargers have had their issues in special teams under Head Coach Anthony Lynn. Although the team has made improvement, it’s not enough. We got John “Bones” Fassel.

The X-factors

The Spanos’ Chargers play this game up as #FightForLA. While the Chargers may be fighting for Los Angeles, the Rams are battling for the Super Bowl. There is no love lost between the management of the Rams and the Chargers.

Dean Spanos tried to block the Rams from coming home to Los Angeles. Then when he lost that, he horned in the Rams new stadium and moved the team after 56 years from San Diego.

I don’t like the Chargers one bit, neither do my fellow diehards.

All polls indicated that close to 70% of Los Angeles align themselves with the Rams and not the Chargers. The simple reason is this: They don’t belong here. They belong in San Diego.

Players don’t get too involved in all this hype between managements, but a part of this does carry over in how the game is approached. If your focus is on winning the Fight for Los Angeles rather then on the Super Bowl, you’ve lost the battle already. There are going to be plenty of Rams fans in the Coliseum this Sunday. The “Save the Bolts” crew will have airplanes flying over head with derogatory banners directed towards Spanos. Since arriving in southern California, the Spanos’ Chargers get more fans in the StubHub stands rooting for the opponents as they do being an unwelcome home team.

This game means a lot to Rams management, although they will never say it publically, they’re too classy for that. That’s where the Rams fans step in and let the Spanos’s Chargers know they’re not welcome in Los Angeles, whether its DTLA, Costa Mesa or Inglewood.

I would like nothing better then to see my Los Angeles Rams, the only team which really represents the heart and sole of Angelenos destroy the Chargers. That might be a big challenge, but there’s no reason my Rams can’t send the message to Spanos’ Chargers that they should leave Los Angeles while the team has some dignity left. I might even feel sorry enough them to help pack their bags.

But probably not.