The Chargers and Rams are poised for big things in 2018. Both Los Angeles teams are defined by their quarterbacks and star-studded defenses.
The battle was won by the Los Angeles Rams in 2017. The Rams finished 11-5 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Jared Goff led a high-powered Los Angeles passing attack and the Rams defense proved to be a strength for head coach Sean McVay.
The Los Angeles Chargers on the other hand, just missed the playoffs and failed to capture the new LA market. Despite the disappointing finish, the Chargers have become media darlings and have been frequently picked to make a return to the postseason.
With Los Angeles being the home of two potential playoff contenders, there’s hope that a potential rivalry can ignite.
As the long summer drags on, let’s go position-by-position and see how the two L.A. teams stack up on paper.
Goff was fantastic in his second NFL season, but Philip Rivers was just as good. Both completed 62 percent of their passes and threw 28 touchdowns. Rivers had about 700 more passing yards, but also had three more interceptions.
This is probably closer than most people think, but Rivers’ leadership and consistency wins out against a young Goff. The former Golden Bear has a bright future, but its not quite his time yet.
Running backs: Rams
This battle is essentially Todd Gurley against Melvin Gordon. Although Gordon showed major improvements in 2017, Gurley was on another level. The AP Offensive Player of the Year, Gurley racked up 2093 yards from scrimmage and found the end zone 19 times.
The backend of both depth charts are rather lackluster. Austin Ekeler did nice things with the Bolts last season, but he isn’t enough to propel the Chargers over the Rams here.
Tight Ends: Rams
The Bolts would have ran away with this category if Hunter Henry was healthy, but without him, the Rams clearly have more talent. Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett may have only combined for 539 yards last season, but the Chargers have one tight end on their roster who has registered a catch.
Wide Receivers: Chargers
This was one of the toughest positions to break down. The difference here was Keenan Allen. The reigning Comeback Player of the Year was phenomenal for the Bolts last season. He proved that when healthy, he is a top-five receiver.
Allen will be followed by Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin and Mike Williams. Tyrell Williams and Benjamin combined for 1,295 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Mike Williams struggled in his rookie campaign as injuries made him an afterthought for the majority of the season.
If Mike Williams can live up to his first-round selection, it would make the Chargers four receivers deep.
The trio of Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods are a nice group for the Rams, but it doesn’t live up to the potential of their crosstown rivals.
Offensive Line: Chargers
Another tough debate here. The Chargers and Rams offensive fronts exceeded expectations. Veteran tackles Russell Okung and Andrew Whitworth anchored each of their respective groups.
The Bolts managed to reinforce their offensive line, which allowed the fewest sacks in the league with 18. Free agent Mike Pouncey will be the starting center and former second-round pick Forrest Lamp will be returning from a torn ACL he suffered prior to last season.
These additions get the Chargers over the hump against an aging Rams unit.
Whitworth and center John Sullivan are well into their 30s and may not have much left in the tank. While the Chargers boast two young guards in Lamp and Dan Feeney who could propel the Chargers into elite status.
Defensive Line: Rams
Both team’s defensive lines are headlined by stars. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram for the Chargers, matched up with Ndamukong Such and Aaron Donald.
Another toss up, but the Rams will get the nod due to Michael Brockers. He is the third piece to a dangerous Rams front. He will have next to no attention now that Suh and Donald are going to be wreaking havoc in the middle.
Bosa and Ingram are a terror on the outside, but the Rams will be better in the running game. They were just about as bad as the Bolts last season, giving up 122 yards per game compared to the Chargers 131. However, the Chargers didn't add Suh, a potential game changer if he is motivated.
Interestingly enough, both of Los Angeles’ may be weakest position. The Chargers are headlined by Denzel Perryman a hard-hitting backer who has had trouble staying on the field of late.
He will be joined by second-round pick Uchenna Nwosu, Jatavis Brown, and Kyle Emanuel. Brown, who exploded onto the scene in 2016, was a no show last season and was a massive disappointment for a defense on the brink of greatness.
Despite the lack of depth for the Chargers, the fact that last year’s group will be back will help defensive coordinator Gus Bradley find the best group by September.
The Rams on the other hand Mark Barron is the key to a group of unknown players. Rookies Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Trevon Young join Samson Ebukam as the other potential starters.
It isn’t a pretty sight for either team, but a healthy Perryman could cover up many of the Chargers holes at linebacker.
Another fun group for both teams, the Chargers get the nod due to have four legitimate options compared to the Rams three.
The Rams big three of Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Nickel Robey-Coleman is hard to match, but the Chargers have a secret weapon which puts this secondary at another level.
Enter Desmond King. A 2017 fifth-round pick, King showed flashes of brilliance with a pick-six on Thanksgiving and four sacks in his rookie season.
Ahead of him is Casey Hayward, Jason Verrett, and Trevor Williams. Each player has proven they are starting corners in recent years. Hayward has been undoubtedly a top-five corner in the sport and Williams came out of nowhere lsat season to play opposite Hayward. Verrett has also proven that he is a true number-one corner when he is healthy.
This banks on the play of Chargers’ first-round pick Derwin James. If James can be a difference maker at safety, the Bolts will rack up turnovers all year.
With Jahleel Addae across from him, it will be a hard-hitting duo manning the back end of the defense. Rookie Kyzir White is also an intriguing name for the Bolts. His hybrid style should fit in Bradley’s scheme nicely.
Lamarcus Joyner and John Johnson will likely have strong seasons under Wade Phillips in 2018. However, the potential of James is just too much to ignore. He is in a perfect situation. A coach that thrives with talented safeties, and a secondary filled with talent, James should have a terrific rookie campaign with the Bolts.
Special Teams: Rams
This shouldn’t be hard. Johnny Hecker and Greg Zuerlein are really good.
Drew Kaser has been solid for the Bolts, but the Chargers still don't have a kicker. Chargers fans should be excited for the Roberto Aguayo and Caleb Sturgis kicking battle, for sure.
Final Tally: Chargers 6, Rams 4
On paper, the Chargers just squeak by the Rams in a position-by-position outlook. Each franchise has plenty of talent and should have playoff expectations. Each defense has the chance to dominate their respective divisions.
Stars litter both rosters, but the difference is the slight advantage in cornerback and linebacker. It takes one injury, or one player to flip-flop those groups, but the Chargers are looking awfully good heading into training camp.
What is your take? Are the Chargers more talented than the Rams? Or will the battle of Los Angeles start to slip away from the Bolts?