The Rams and Chargers face off Sunday for the first time since both teams moved back to Los Angeles, and some may even dub it a proverbial Super Bowl preview if both teams play up to their potential. But at this point, with the teams in opposite conferences and sharing the city for only two seasons, this is not exactly a rivalry yet.
L.A.'s NFC team is 2-0 after picking up wins over the Raiders and Cardinals in relatively easy fashion. The Rams have done it in balanced fashion with a solid passing attack and a running game led by Todd Gurley. Jared Goff has completed almost 65 percent of his passes and has three touchdowns to just one interception. The question is if the great numbers this team has put up are because of the weak opponents or if the Rams are for real. Head coach Sean McVay has taken the league by storm, while Wade Phillips leads the veteran-laden defense. McVay has done wonders with Goff so far as his numbers are greatly improved.
The Chargers are 1-1 this season and are coming off a 31-20 road win at Buffalo last week. In that game, they started fast and built a big lead before letting the Bills get a little momentum. In the end, they did what they had to against the bad team and moved on from a tough loss in Week 1. Philip Rivers is putting up his usual fantastic numbers, but the defense has struggled at times. The Chargers have three of their next four at home after this one, so if they can pick up the win, they'll gather some momentum.
The Rams lead this series 6-5 with the Chargers taking the last matchup at home 27-24 in 2014. Rivers threw for 291 yards and a touchdown in that win.
Rams at Chargers
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 23 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Spread: Rams -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Battle of the running backs
Todd Gurley is running well so far this year and with a heavier wallet. He has 220 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns. The back is seeing a solid amount of work and will be a factor against a Chargers team allowing under 100 yards per game on the ground. Joey Bosa being out will soften things up front, but Melvin Ingram is still a handful for offensive lines. Corey Liuget would be playing if he wasn't suspended and still has two games left to sit out. Melvin Gordon has 39 touches for the Chargers and leads the team in receptions and targets a year after setting a career-high with 58 catches. The guy has been a very good option out of the backfield and mixes well with Austin Ekeler, who is averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Neither the Raiders or Cardinals were able to stress the Rams defense. Arizona has David Johnson, but the Cardinals got away from him too early and the game got out of hand.
The Rams are in the middle of a three-game home stand with the Vikings coming up next on Thursday in Week 4. I guess there's a small chance that focus is a bit of an issue in this one as the Minnesota contest could potentially have huge playoff implications. As I said, in a lot of other cities, there would be more talk of these two teams becoming rivals and it being a battle for Los Angeles. I just don't think that's the case in L.A. though. It's the Chargers second straight road game, but they don't have to go far so that's not really going to be a factor. They host the 49ers next so there's no lookahead factor, either.
3. Who is the Chargers' lethal weapon?
It bears mentioning once again that Melvin Gordon has the most receptions for the Chargers. He's got one more then Keenan Allen who is the squad's No. 1 receiver. Allen figures to see a lot of Aqib Talib who is very familiar with him from his time with the Broncos. The question is who will step up opposite him? Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams are both really inconsistent, while Antonio Gates has not done much in his return to the team. Gates has been targeted four times with just two catches for 16 yards. The Williams' will see a healthy dose of Marcus Peters, which is an edge to the Rams. Peters also saw plenty of the Chargers from his time with the Chiefs.
The Rams have been playing great football, but are going to face their best test of the season. As usually is the case with the Chargers, this will be a close game with Philip Rivers having a shot to tie or take the lead late. Rivers holds the edge on Jared Goff although the Rams signal caller has better weapons. The only way the Chargers win this game is if they can run the ball consistently and keep the ball away from the Rams. I don't think that happens and the Rams move to 3-0.
Prediction: Rams 27, Chargers 13
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.