Coming off of perhaps the most complete football game played in the Sean McVay era, the Los Angeles Rams are feeling pretty good after dropping a whopping 51 points on the Denver Broncos. Heading into the penultimate game of the season, the Rams will face another AFC West opponent, and a much better one at that.
The Los Angeles Chargers will host the Rams this week after clinching a playoff berth for the first time since 2018, and former defensive coordinator Brandon Staley (now Chargers Head Coach) is the man behind getting them back to Super Bowl contention. That’s why the Chargers and Staley are 6.5-point favorites over the Rams and McVay, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
As the Rams sit at 5-10, the only thing left to play for is to try and avoid becoming the first team to lose eleven games following a Super Bowl victory. On the other side, the Chargers are sitting at 9-6 with an opportunity to move up in playoff seeding as we head down the home stretch of the season.
Here are 3 reasons as to why the Rams will come out on top in the ‘Battle for LA’, as well as 3 reasons they may lose a Super Bowl defense record eleventh game:
3 REASONS THE RAMS WILL WIN
1) CONTROL THE CLOCK WITH THE RUN GAME
In the past month, Rams running back Cam Akers has shown flashes of his rookie year self, giving the team that steady man in the backfield they thought they would have all season long. However, one of the main reasons we have seen a resurgence in Cam Akers’ play is due to the fact that the offensive line has been playing much better as of late, giving the offense some real hope as we close out the season.
The offense will have a solid test against some solid playmakers as well as some familiar faces, as they will face off with a Chargers defense who fields former Rams players Sebastian Joseph-Day, Morgan Fox, and Troy Reeder. All season long, this Chargers defense has struggled stopping the run, ranked 26th in the NFL in total rushing yards given up. Not only that, they are also giving up 5.3 yards per carry, which is ranked 31st in the entire league thus far.
There is a clear recipe to find success against the Chargers, and it starts on the ground. When the Rams come out on top this week, expect Cam Akers to have another monster performance.
2) MCVAY KNOWS THE STALEY DEFENSE
Over the span of Sean McVay’s coaching career, he has had a total of four coaches poached from his staff to become head coaches of their own. Zac Taylor (Bengals), Matt LeFleur (Packers), Brandon Staley (Chargers), and Kevin O’Connell (Vikings) are all former assistants of McVay, but there is an outlier.
Out of all of the coaches mentioned, only one of them came from the defensive side of the ball, and that is now Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley. Staley became the first defensive coordinator under Sean McVay to get a head coaching gig following a stint with the Rams, doing so after just one season with the team.
Over the span of that one season, McVay got a real close look at the Brandon Staley defense, which is based off of Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme that had given McVay fits in the past. That close look should give McVay the slight advantage in play-calling as well as game-planning, so we will see what sort of wrinkles McVay and the offense brings to the table this week.
When the Rams defeat the Chargers, expect the offense to look solid against a defensive scheme/plan they have seen before.
3) DEFENSE STEALS SOME POSSESSIONS
Last week, perhaps the main reason for the big win was the defense's ability to make big plays, leading to short fields and easier opportunities for the offense. In a performance where they racked up four interceptions, six sacks, and twelve QB hits, the Rams defense will be lacking no confidence heading into this week.
However, the offense they will face is much more potent than the lowly Broncos offense, as Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is one of the best young players the league has to offer. Nevertheless, the goal for the defense will remain the same, and that is to make plays and force turnovers.
When the Rams win this week, expect the defense to have another game of mastery.
3 REASONS THE RAMS MAY LOSE
1) JUSTIN HERBERT AND CO. ARE JUST TOO GOOD
Although last week’s defensive performance was impressive, it came against the worst offense in the NFL. This week, the Rams will face a much more high-powered offense, led by a quarterback playing at a much higher level than Russell Wilson is.
Chargers QB Justin Herbert is a flat-out superstar, possessing all of the tools and traits that NFL teams salivate over when evaluating talent at that position. Not only that, but Herbert also has one of the best receiving duos in the league in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, which forms one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league.
On top of those weapons, running back Austin Ekeler is one of the best pass catching running backs in the league as well, as he has hauled in a ridiculous 99 catches in the season thus far.
The Chargers offense will stress the Rams defense on all levels all game long, which could lead to a long game for the Rams. If the Rams lose this week, expect Justin Herbert and company to have a masterful performance.
2) DOES STALEY HAVE THE ADVANTAGE?
As said earlier, Sean McVay and Brandon Staley had a full year of facing off against/game-planning with one another when they were together back in 2020. But who has the advantage?
Sean McVay has had a lot of his coaches poached from his staff, so I am sure he is very smart about how much he shares with his inevitable future opponents on his staff. With that being said, during training camp these coaches aren’t planning for an opponent to face, so it mostly consists of practice scripts that will challenge each side of the ball with planned play-calls.
During those periods, both coaches get an inside glimpse of how the opposing side of the ball is assessing the situation, exposing some possible tendencies to look for. There is a chance that Brandon Staley has a good idea of how McVay likes to attack defenses, which could play into Staley’s advantage come Sunday.
If the Rams lose to the Chargers, expect coach Brandon Staley to win the chess match between former co-workers.
3) CHARGERS PASS RUSH WREAKS HAVOC ON BAKER MAYFIELD
Since Mayfield has taken over, the Rams have only faced one pass-rushing specialist. That was Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby, who absolutely dominated the Rams offensive line all night long during their game. This week, they will see Khalil Mack, a possible future hall-of-famer at his position.
Not only that, but there is a slim chance that Joey Bosa could make his return to the field, which could lead to a lopsided match-up between the Rams tackles and Bosa/Mack. On top of those two, the Chargers have former Rams Sebastian Joseph-Day as well as Morgan Fox, who both have shown some pass-rushing prowess over the span of their young careers.
The Rams offensive line has been playing better as of late, but that does not change the fact that they have been mostly bad throughout the season. If the Rams lose this Sunday, expect the Chargers pass rushers to have a hell of a day getting at Baker Mayfield.
Head to DraftKings Sportsbook for more information on the game.