This Week 3 cross-conference NFL battle over La La Land between the Chargers and the Rams takes place at 4:05 pm EST at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA.
The 1-1 Chargers and their veteran quarterback are coming off a solid Week 2 win over the struggling Buffalo Bills, 31-20. Their defense looked a lot better than they did during their Week 1 defeat at the hot hands of divisional rival Kansas City Chiefs – the score was 38-28 – and after 2 games their offense is ranked third in the league.
Though this Week 3 L.A. matchup is technically an away game for the Chargers (they play their home games twenty-minutes south of there at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA), they’re hoping plenty of their fans will still show up to cheer them on, something they’re not exactly known for doing.
As impressive as the Rams’ 2-0 record looks, keep in mind that they beat two struggling teams (the Oakland Raiders in Week 1, 33-13, and the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2, 34-0) who are both currently 0-2.
That’s not to say that the undefeated Rams and their third-year quarterback aren’t everything as advertised – their defense is currently ranked 3rd and their offense is ranked 7th in the league – but to win this matchup they’ll have to figure out how to neutralize a Chargers’ offense that so far has put up 327.5 total yards per game.
Who’s favored to win this Week 3 Chargers-Rams matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback, the veteran or the young guy, is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Chargers and the Rams and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Chargers offense slightly off-balance
The Chargers offense does as well as its 36-year-old Pro-Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers performs, and so far this season, he’s been doing very well. In just two games, he’s completed 57 passes for 680 yards for six touchdowns and just one interception. His current passer rating, 119.6, is the highest it’s ever been.
Even without wide receiver Travis Benjamin (foot injury), Rivers still has receivers Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams plus tight ends Antonio Gates and Virgil Green and altogether they’ve caught balls for 329.0 yards per game, third most in the NFL.
It’s the Chargers’ run game that’s been struggling a bit.
Running back Melvin Gordon picked up a neck injury in last week’s game but he did practice this week. He and Austin Ekeler together have only averaged 116.0 rushing yards per game, which puts them tied for 11th in that category, not bad but not overwhelming. The Rams are 5th in the league against the rush, so it’ll be no easy feat to break out big runs against them.
Without a solid running attack to counterbalance Rivers’ arm, there’s will be a one-dimensional game plan that will be easily countered, especially given the ability of the Rams’ offense.
The 2018 Rams offense is Goff and Gurley gold
The Rams have the fifth-highest scoring offense in the NFL and put up 33.5 points per game.
There are two main reasons for that: 23-year-old quarterback Jared Goff and 24-year-old All-Pro running back Todd Gurley.
Against the Raiders in Week 1, Goff threw for 233 yards on 18/33 with 2 TDs and no interceptions while Gurley ran 20 times for 108 yards while catching 3 passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Against the Cardinals in Week 2, Goff threw for 354 yards on 24/32 for a touchdown and an interception, while Gurley ran 19 times for 42 yards and 3 touchdowns while catching 9 balls for 102 yards.
Wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and All-Rookie Cooper Kupp have combined for 283.5 passing yards per game, which puts them in the top ten in that category.
Chargers Defense ranks 9th in the league, Rams D ranks 3rd
Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa remained sidelined at Wednesday's practice as he recovers from a foot injury. He and his 12.5 sacks from last season have been missed – so far the Chargers have only managed 2 sacks in 2018, both by rookie safety Derwin James.
The Chargers rank 14th against the run and 13th against the pass, so they’ll have to step up both ways against Rams’ dual-threat Gurley and the audible-loving Goff.
The most telling stat about the Rams defense has to be the fact that they’ve given up only one touchdown all season. That’s due to shut-down players like inside linebacker Cory Littleton, who against the Raiders in Week 1 had 11 tackles and an interception.
The Rams have sacked opposing quarterbacks 4 times thanks to defensive tackle Michael Brockers (2) and linebacker Samson Ebukam (2).
Last week the Chargers special teams allowed the Chiefs’ speed-demon Tyreek Hill to score a highlight-worthy touchdown on a blazing 91-yard punt return.
The Rams punt returner is second-year receiver Jojo Natson, who so far in 2018 has returned 6 punts for a total of 133 yards. Natson’s longest return was an impressive 60 yarder against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 – but none of his runs have been for touchdowns. Yet.
Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein missed last week's game after suffering a groin injury during pregame warm-ups. The injury is expected to keep him out a few weeks, so they’ve signed Sam Ficken.
After Zuerlein underwent season-ending back surgery following a Week 15 victory last December, the Rams signed Ficken for the first time. Ficken made 2 of 3 field-goal attempts in two regular-season games and also kicked two field goals in a playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Though Ficken was a part of the Rams squads this offseason and preseason, he didn’t end up making the 53-man roster cut.
Chargers-Rams prediction and odds
The oddsmakers have the Rams favored to beat the Chargers by 7 with an over/under of 48.
CBSSports.com’s final score prediction: Rams 30, Chargers 20.