Rams, Chargers to meet for first time in stadium they share
LOS ANGELES RAMS (5-10) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (9-6)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. EST, CBS
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK NFL LINE: Chargers by 6 1/2.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: Rams 5-9-1; Chargers 10-5.
SERIES RECORD: Rams lead 7-5.
LAST MEETING: Rams beat Chargers 35-23 on Sept. 23, 2018.
LAST WEEK: Rams beat Broncos 51-14; Chargers beat Colts 20-3.
RAMS OFFENSE: OVERALL (31), RUSH (29), PASS (25), SCORING (26).
RAMS DEFENSE: OVERALL (12), RUSH (5), PASS (22), SCORING (17T).
CHARGERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (11), RUSH (31), PASS (3), SCORING (13).
CHARGERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (19), RUSH (26), PASS (9), SCORING (21T).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Rams minus-1; Chargers plus-4.
RAMS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Baker Mayfield was ruthlessly efficient in dissecting the Broncos, going 24 of 28 for 230 yards passing and two touchdowns. It was the second-best completion rate of his career (85.7%) and his second straight home win at SoFi Stadium. Mayfield has made good use of the tight ends since joining the Rams, which makes sense given the uptick in production from the ground game and the play-action chances that creates.
CHARGERS PLAYER TO WATCH: CB Michael Davis has played some of the best football of his six-year career over the past month, and it continued with seven tackles, three passes defended and an interception he returned 30 yards to thwart the Colts’ opening possession. The Rams will want to be judicious with their passing game outside the numbers, so Davis will want to be aggressive on any third-and-longs the defense creates.
KEY MATCHUP: Rams RB Cam Akers vs. Chargers’ front seven. It seemed like a certainty Akers wouldn’t be a Ram when the calendar turned over to 2023 after he was sent home in October and was made available at the trade deadline. Coming off a dominant 118-yard rushing performance with three touchdowns against the Broncos, he now looks like a potential difference-maker for the Rams. The Chargers have shored up their poor run defense, allowing a combined 288 yards on the ground during their three-game winning streak. This isn’t the time to give back that progress, especially when the pass rush is feasting on lengthy second and third downs.
KEY INJURIES: After a disastrous run of injuries this season, the Rams look to be in good shape this week. DL Larrell Murchison should be good to go after sustaining a stinger last week. ... Chargers S Derwin James Jr. is in concussion protocol following his helmet-to-helmet hit on Colts WR Ashton Dulin that led to James’ ejection for unnecessary roughness. ... RB Austin Ekeler is dealing with a knee injury.
SERIES NOTES: This is the second meeting between the Rams and Chargers as residents of Los Angeles. The Rams beat the Chargers at the LA Coliseum in 2018, with Chargers WR Mike Williams the only player from either team who scored a touchdown that day likely to be active this time around. ... No team has won more than two straight games in the sparingly played series. The Rams won the first two games in 1970 and 1975, before the Chargers got the next two in 1979 and 1988. The Rams also notched consecutive victories in 2000 and 2002.
STATS AND STUFF: Rams TE Tyler Higbee had two touchdown catches against the Broncos, the third time in his career he had multiple scoring grabs. ... The Rams caught a break when RG Oday Aboushi had his one-game suspension for a postgame confrontation that turned physical with Broncos OLB Randy Gregory on Sunday reduced to a fine. ... Akers topped 100 yards rushing for the second time in his three-year career. He had 171 yards against New England on Dec. 10, 2020. ... Murchison had quite the introduction to Rams fans, getting two sacks in his debut versus Denver after being claimed off waivers from Tennessee on Dec. 12. ... This will be the Rams’ 10th regular-season game at SoFi Stadium this season, having gone 4-5 in home contests. ... Chargers coach Brandon Staley was the Rams defensive coordinator in 2020, overseeing the top unit in the NFL in points and yards allowed. ... The Chargers have three players that were Rams last season in DL Sebastian Joseph-Day, LB Troy Reeder, and RB Sony Michel. ... Justin Herbert is the first QB in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards in each of his first three seasons. He needs four touchdown passes over the next two games to join Peyton Manning with 25 in each of his first three seasons. ... Ekeler got his fifth game with multiple touchdowns this season, running for two scores against Indianapolis. He leads the league with 16 total touchdowns (11 rushing, five receiving). ... LB Drue Tranquill has three different games with 10 tackles and one sack this season, including each of the past two weeks. Tranquill had 1 1/2 sacks in his first three seasons, but has five in 15 games this season.
FANTASY TIP: Herbert hasn’t looked quite right the past two games, throwing three interceptions without a touchdown. While the Chargers will want him to get going again before the playoffs, he could be a risky play against a Rams defense that has remained feisty.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL