The pre-season season is over for NFL teams. Pay no attention to the results for those games. The Rams and Chargers together posted a 1-5 record, but those contests were mostly for trying out rookies and second-stringers to show what they could do.
When the regular season starts on Sept. 12, the starting lineups for both teams will look a lot different.
So here’s a quick look at what to expect from each of those teams.
Rams: The quarterback of their dreams?
Jared Goff was good enough to lead the Rams to a Super Bowl, but his career started to arc downward after that. Enter Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions with a solid resume and a winning record.
He will have a true deep threat in wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Prospects for the running game took a (literal) hit when Cam Akers ruptured his Achilles heel in a non-football mishap. However, Darrell Henderson could be a strong replacement for a team that’s lacked a strong ground game since Todd Gurley started to fade.
The SoFi crew relied strongly on an NFL-best defense last year, and it should be strong enough again with Aaron Donald – arguably the best defenseman in the league – anchoring the line and Jalen Ramsey in single coverage at cornerback.
Coach Sean McVay is no longer the boy-genius of the NFL, but if Stafford can deliver, McVay should be able to dial up more long pass plays. That makes for a more wide-open game plan, and fans will like it, too. This year’s Rams should improve on last year’s 10-6 record and stand a chance at not only hosting the Super Bowl in Inglewood, but playing in it, too.
Chargers: He’s Justin time for the Bolts
We give Philip Rivers a lot of props for some great – and some not-so-great – seasons. But all is forgotten and forgiven if Justin Herbert can build on his outstanding rookie season for the Chargers. The former University of Oregon star QB had a solid 2020 season, throwing for 31 touchdowns, with just 10 interceptions. He led the team to one comeback win and three game-winning drives. That’s not bad for a team with a 7-9 mark. With him at the helm, the Bolts won four of their last five games last season.
Of course, much of the game is won on defense and up front. The Chargers “stole” defensive coordinator Brandon Staley from the Rams to be their head coach. A stronger defense and a solid offensive line – anchored by Corey Linsley – will give comfort to Herbert, meaning less time on the sidelines or on the ground.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Chargers is geography, located as they are in the AFC West along with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, and an up-and-coming Las Vegas Raiders team coached by Jon Gruden, who sometimes works miracles.
The Chargers will probably improve to a winning record, starting with the Sept. 12 game in Washington. Getting past the Chiefs, though, would take a miracle of their own.
Dodgers hang in there; Halos mail it in
From column to column, our recaps of the week with the Dodgers and Angels look remarkably consistent. The Blue Crew play well and win, but catching the first place San Francisco Giants remains tantalizingly out-of-reach as the NorCal fellows keep winning, too.
So that means if both keep that up, the Dodgers will have to sweep the Giants in the Bay Area Friday to Sunday to make much meaningful progress. Before that, they’ll host the Braves in games Monday through Wednesday at Chavez Ravine.
For the Angels, it’s not November, but A) there’s no way they will be playing in October and B) it’s time to stick a fork in this turkey, it’s done. The Halos have another candidate for the Hall of Fame in Shohei Ohtani, and have developed some “new” stars in Justin Upton (1,000 career RBIs) and David Fletcher (.292 average and 42 RBIs), but the offense is inconsistent and the pitching subpar (17th in MLB).
The Angels host the Yankees in Anaheim today (Monday), Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll have Thursday off, then host the Rangers for four (Friday to next Monday.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica.