1) How seriously are Rams fans seeing this whole ‘Fight for LA’ thing? For most Chargers fans, it doesn’t exactly feel like there’s a rivalry with the Rams, and it doesn’t feel like an even fight, either.
Not seriously at all. Yet.
With the Rams’ history and the fact that Spanos tried to block the Rams from returning to LA, many fans have a pretty strong disdain for the Chargers. Or at least for the owner. So there’s a bed of sentiment to develop a rivalry from. And we know the NFL is going to push for it haaaaaaaaaaaaaard. My take? I think it’ll take root. Obviously a Week 3 game isn’t necessarily going to make it happen, but I think it will develop (a) once you guys starting winning in LA and building a fan base and (b) if we ever get this game in Week 14 or later when we’re both in the midst of a playoff push.
As of right now though, we’re busy fighting in the NFC and if anything, fighting for old Raiders fans to come to our side.
2) The Rams absolutely beat down on the Cardinals last week. Were the Rams that good, or were the Cardinals that bad?
In all seriousness, it was both. Specifically, the Cardinals’ offense just couldn’t get anything going all game. They didn’t cross the 50-yard line until late in the 4th quarter. So with the field position game cranking and having established the run in the 1st quarter, it was just very easy for the offense to begin to open things up. And given the quality of the skill positions and how well the offensive line is playing, it was just an avalanche effect that the Cardinals did nothing to stem offensively.
3) Following on from that, the Rams offense has looked unstoppable so far. What’s working, and do you anticipate that continuing against the Chargers?
The biggest thing that’s working is the offensive line. PFF ranked them 3rd in the NFL after two weeks. They’re just doing a phenomenal job making things straightforward for RB Todd Gurley and allowing QB Jared Goff to operate the offense with confidence in the amount of time he has to go through things. Of course, I have to point to the wideouts as well. Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp form one of the NFL’s best trios. Cooks has shined in his first two games as a Ram in replacing last year’s WR1, Sammy Watkins. The Rams had one of the best offenses in the NFL last year and brought back 10 starters. Many would argue the only personnel change was an upgrade. No reason not to buy into the Rams’ offense again this year.
4) Defensively, the Rams seem downright scary. Is there a weakness in this defense, and how much of a miss will Mark Barron be?
Well, this is where things are more interesting for me. The Rams weren’t bad by any means in 2017 on this side of the ball, but it wasn’t nearly as dominant as the offense was for stretches. The Rams traded for CBs Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and added DL Ndamukong Suh on a one-year rental to form perhaps the NFL’s best defensive line. But it meant they had to go with near total overhaul among the linebackers. OLB Robert Quinn and ILB Alec Ogletree were both traded while OLB Connor Barwin left in free agency meaning ILB Mark Barron was the only 2017 starter to return. He hasn’t played a snap dealing with injuries that hampered him throughout 2017. So the linebacking group is both the weak point and the group with perhaps the most potential to improve and/or surprise. Even if the group underwhelms as a whole this year, it’s surrounded by incredibly impressive talent. So it might be the obvious weakness. And it might be the case that we miss Barron substantially. But every roster has holes. And most don’t have the cast around those holes that the Rams do.
5) Can we get a prediction for the game, and for the Rams season as a whole? Just how far can this team go?
Man, so this game is interesting. You guys are the best team we’ve faced to this point, so I’m not sure how we’d handle adversity with yall’s level of talent. I’ll go with a medium over/under and a Rams win, but I’m much less confident in my prediction this game than I have been the first two weeks where I was pretty close (and pretty confident). I went 24-20 for the Rams in our staff predictions, but I think it’s going to be largely on the development of the game. Of the third quarter. Of who finds out what’s working and leans into it and who can figure out how to isolate what they’re doing wrong and cut it off as quickly as possible. Should be a good one.