The Chargers and their fans are feeling good ahead of this week’s matchup with the Rams thanks in large part to the return of Joey Bosa to the practice field. The team’s start edge rusher has missed every game since his groin injury he suffered in Week 3 and, according to him, he hasn’t felt this good in years. So at long last, we may get treated this week to the Joey Bosa-Khalil Mack pass rush we’ve been longing for once again.
This week, we brought in Evan Craig of our Rams community, Turf Show Times, to help us preview this installment of the Battle for L.A. We discussed the Rams’ injuries, the play of Baker Mayfield, and how the fans are holding up during a terrible Super Bowl hangover.
Let’s jump right in.
1.) Similar to the Chargers, the Rams have not only had their fair share of injuries, but some of those injuries were to cornerstone pieces of the team, such as Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp. What has this season been like for Rams fans, especially after winning the whole thing less than a year ago?
It’s been a season full of lowlights for Rams fans. Guess everything had to fall back down to earth after their many deal(s) with the devil to win it all last year. Perhaps that was the cost of winning and I have to expect they would pay to experience it all over again. It should’ve been expected the team would suffer a few letdowns along the way although the injury bug could’ve eased back a little. The nerve of that bastard! You Chargers fans know that story all too well, huh?
I believe some fans have seen the silver lining by seeing the true colors of this team in the wake of all the injuries to LA’s stars. Despite all the injuries, the Rams have been a tough out every week. They’ve been playing hard for McVay and it manifested into a spectacular beatdown over the Broncos on Christmas day. Fans are fortunate to have a competent coaching staff helping them through a challenging year, even if they aren’t going to be all that thankful following a sour performance. It’s also been a great time to see what the Rams have in their younger stars. Fans have seen that Tutu Atwell and maybe Cam Akers don’t suck as bad as they thought and have been wanting them to be given more opportunities. If I had said that a year ago, the fan base would have taken me out back and fired me themselves.
2.) The Rams made the move to sign Baker Mayfield off waivers several weeks ago after he was let go by the Panthers. Since, he has won two games and just helped put up 51 points against one of the better defenses in the NFL. How do fans feel about Mayfield as their starting quarterback? Should he be given a shot to compete against Matthew Stafford for the job in 2023? Or will Mayfield like not be retained over the offseason?
Fans probably feel relief that he actually looks like an NFL quarterback unlike John Wolford and Bryce Perkins before him. He has brought a sense of stability to the position that the team hasn’t seen since Stafford was ruled out for the year. Mayfield has been very comfortable in McVay’s offense which is quite remarkable considering he’s only played three games with the team. Baker has made for a fun story in LA during a miserable season but I don’t envision him having a Hollywood ending here.
It doesn’t make sense to give him a shot to compete against Stafford due to all the money they’ve committed to him after the Super Bowl win. He’s had his fair share of struggles this season but there’s no debating Matthew Stafford is the Rams best option moving forward. That said, I would love Baker to stay as well. I know it’s wishful thinking but this team needs stability at QB behind Matt and Mayfield is making a great case to keep it. I doubt he’ll want to remain a backup as he’s treating these last few games as an audition to show the NFL he’s still got it. LA has been the most stable organization Baker has been in to this point and it would be a shame not to see what else McVay might have in store for him. So that is why I don’t see him being retained unless something crazy happens like Stafford calling it quits.
3.) If you were Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, how would you go about scheming against this Rams defense? Which mismatches would you attempt to exploit? Which players — aside from the obvious Aaron Donald — would you try to avoid?
Luckily for Chargers fans, they won’t have to see Aaron Donald as he’s unofficially been shut down for the rest of the season. So everybody can sleep easier on Saturday night. The boogeyman won’t be there to hurt you. My only advice to Joe, besides being a more innovative play caller to maximize Herbert’s skillset, is to attack the secondary. They’ve been a weakness all year long given their relative inexperience and depth across the board. Even Jalen Ramsey has experienced a down year which everybody and their mama loves to point out. (Yeah I saw he got exposed by Travis Kelce a few weeks ago but at least he’s not the only one, right Chargers?) I would still try to avoid him as much as possible but a Keenan vs Jalen matchup is just too much fun to ignore entirely. Yet there is some promise with the secondary, at least with Cobie Durant. He’s young and has only been targeted 13 times but has three interceptions and leads the NFL in interception return yardage in his limited opportunities. Durant’s athleticism is something the Rams have sorely needed. Against Denver, he picked off two passes and even ran one back 85 yards. Would Lombardi want Herbie throwing in the area of a guy who can make this type of play:
4.) Same question but switching sides of the ball. If you were Brandon Staley, how would you go about stopping Mayfield and this Rams offense? Which player must be stopped at all costs? Who are some offensive players that have stepped up in recent weeks that Chargers fans may not know about?
If I were Brandon Staley, I’d be doing extra cat-cow stretches during pregame since I hear they really do the trick. Aside from that, I would try to make the offense more one-dimensional by applying heavy pressure on Baker and limit the damage from Akers. Last week, the Broncos didn’t register a sack on Mayfield and he picked them apart with ease using a short and quick passing attack. Cam Akers also had the game of his career when McVay committed to him. If Staley can find a way to take the red hot Akers out of the equation, stopping the Rams will be an easier task.
Tight end Tyler Higbee has become a security blanket for Mayfield as he also had his best game of the season in leading the team with his nine receptions for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He caught his only three touchdowns on the year with Mayfield under center. Higbee is likely a player Chargers fans have known about already but he has gotten better as the campaign has gone on and he’s one to keep an eye on this weekend.
5.) The Chargers are currently 6.5-point favorites over the Rams as the home team at SoFi Stadium with the over/under set at 40.5, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Go ahead and give us a short summary of how you see this game shaking out, a final score prediction, and tell us whether or not you’re taking the over or under in this one.
In this battle for LA, I don’t expect to see much scoring and I doubt either team will reach 30 points. Justin Herbert has already willed his team to the playoffs so the Bolts don’t have a whole lot to play for at this point. The Rams are just playing for pride and will be in this game the whole way through. The reason I expect a low-scoring matchup is due to the familiarity between the head coaches. For the second week in a row, Sean McVay is going up against a former defensive assistant he knows well while Brandon Staley knows how to slow down his mentor’s offense. This will be a chess match with whoever possessing the ball last winning the game in a tight one where I’ll be taking the under.
Chargers 19, Rams 17