CHARGERS: The (5-6) Chargers’ playoff hopes are alive coming into a must-win Week 13 matchup in Cleveland. The winless Browns have been outscored by 123 points this season through its first 11 games, the league’s worst point differential.
The Chargers are coming off a big win on Thanksgiving, defeating the Cowboys 28-6. The Bolts are sitting in second place in the AFC West, tied with Oakland and a game behind the Chiefs who have been sputtering after a strong start.
One of the biggest factors for the Chargers’ offensive resurgence has been the connection between Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen the last couple games. During their current two-game win streak the duo have linked on 23 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Rivers showed up in his first Thanksgiving game of his career, throwing for 434 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers has thrown for 685 yards and five touchdowns in the last two games.
Now suddenly there is real playoff buzz swirling around So Cal after the Bolts, who started the season 0-4, have now won five of the last seven games. The Chargers chances are looking good with only five games remaining against teams with a combined record of 20-35 overall.
The seats at StubHub will slowly begin to be filled with blue jerseys if the Chargers can continue to win. For the majority of the season, Chargers fans were a minority on their home turf, but that is sure to change in the coming weeks if they can maintain the hype by stringing victories together.
The Chargers defense has allowed only 202 points, the fewest points scored against any team in the AFC West and fourth best in the conference. They might be without cornerback Casey Hayward who left the team to be with family following the sudden death of his brother.
Kicker Nick Novak has been limited all week after injuring his back last week, but the Chargers signed Travis Coon to their practice squad just in case he won’t be able to suit up. They do not want to go another game without a decent placekicker. Last game could have been ugly without Novak, but the Chargers could spare the missed extra points luckily for Anthony Lynn’s crew.
RAMS: The (8-3) Los Angeles Rams were able to maintain its one-game lead over the (7-4) Seahawks for first place in the NFC West last Sunday with a well deserved 26-20 home win over the red-hot Saints. The scathing LA victory snapped New Orleans’ eight-game winning streak and redeemed last week’s debacle in Minnesota.
On the first drive of the game, the Rams’ Sammy Watkins and Jared Goff jumped all over the Saints who were without both their starting corners. The duo connected twice for 29 yards and a touchdown to set the tone for the shootout between two of the highest scoring offenses in the league.
Drew Brees and the Saints answered right back on their first drive with a huge 74-yard rushing touchdown of their own. Star rookie running back, Alvin Kamara, was the Saints’ secret weapon the last few weeks but he is officially on everyone’s radar now.
Kamara’s rushing touchdown was the longest play of the rookie’s career, but it was just one of many highlight plays from Kamara who slipped out of tackles and hurdled over diving defenders just about every time he touched the ball.
Kamara’s two touchdowns and nearly 190 yards from scrimmage were not enough to slow down the surging Rams who have been one of the biggest surprises of the season.
Jared Goff proved why he is one of the greatest comeback stories of the season by throwing for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The second-year signal-caller completed 28-of-43 passes for 354 yards and a pair of touchdowns on Sunday against the Saints.
Cooper Kupp, Goff’s favorite target, had the best performance of his young career hauling in eight receptions for 116 yards, including a 53-yard catch that nearly found paydirt. It was a redemption game of sorts for the rookie wideout who had two critical miscues that led to the difficult loss in Week 11 against the Vikes.
Both teams averaged 30 points a game coming into the game, though the Rams defense gave Los Angeles the advantage.
The Rams need to continue to be stingy on defense and open up the offense if they want to win against Arizona, Philadelphia, and Seattle in the next three games.
Linebacker Connor Barwin had surgery on his arm following the game last week and will not play this week along with Robert Woods who is still nursing a shoulder injury, but running backs Malcolm Brown and Lance Dunbar are on track to return this week to help lighten the load for Gurley in the backfield.
Everyone is ranting and raving about Goff and Gurley in McVay’s masterful offense but there are a couple guys who have been essential in the revamped Rams. The first person who comes to mind is kicker Greg Zuerlein who is currently on pace to break the single-season scoring record and has made 32 of 34 field goals.
Another key player is Aaron Donald who has pressured opposing quarterbacks 62 times despite holding out all preseason and missing the first game of the year.