CHARGERS: The Chargers were tripped up by a familiar foot in Jacksonville last Sunday, slipping to 3-6, third best in the AFC West.
Josh Lambo was cut by the Chargers in the preseason, but the third year kicker who spent his first two season with the Bolts avenged himself on Sunday with a clutch 30-yard kick in overtime to erase his former squad’s faint playoff hopes.
Lambo’s kick was tipped at the line of scrimmage but managed to wobble its way between the uprights and over the crossbar. His big kick boosted the Jaguars to a 20-17 overtime victory. Lambo was exuberant as he slid, soccer-style, at the center of the field in celebration.
With the win, Jacksonville remained tied for first in the AFC South with Indianapolis, though the Jags have allowed 79 points fewer than the Colts.
It was the seventh one score game of the season for the Chargers. Yet another heartbreaking, morale mushing moment in a season defined by mediocrity. Although slim, the Chargers’ chances of making the playoffs would improve to 18 percent with a win this Sunday against Buffalo, according to ESPN stats.
It was Philip Rivers’ 185th consecutive start for the Chargers. The durable veteran QB finished with 235 yards passing, two touchdowns but a cockamamie interception in overtime will hang over his stat line and could haunt him for years to come. Rivers was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol after the game, most likely due to the hit he laid on Jags DB A.J. Bouye after he picked off his implausible pass.
Melvin Gordon finished the game with only 27 yards rushing on 16 carries, barely over a yard and a half per touch.
As Gordon struggled, rookie RB Austin Ekeler had a breakout performance on Sunday. On the first Chargers drive of the second half, Ekeler found paydirt for the second time on a similar out route he scored his first touchdown on. The rookie had the best game of his young career, as he became the first RB to have two or more receiving touchdowns of 20 yards or more since Jamaal Charles did it in 2013.
Ekeler was a highlight machine catching both of Rivers touchdown passes. He finished the game with 119 total yards from scrimmage, though he had a devastating late fumble lost while trying to drain the clock and maintain the three point lead in the 4th.
Tre Boston had two interceptions in the game, by far his best performance since coming to LA.
Joey Bosa became the second youngest player to reach 20 career sacks on Sunday. Bosa had been busting up plays, creating chaos, getting into the backfield at will all game, but his lamebrained 15-yard roughing the passer penalty put the Jaguars in field goal position late in the 4th quarter.
The Chargers will host the (5-4)Bills this Sunday at StubHub Center, but Buffalo will start rookie Nathan Peterman instead of Tyrod Taylor in hopes of turning things around following a two-game losing streak.
Rivers’ 185-game consecutive starts streak is in jeopardy. Only Brett Favre and both the Manning brothers have more consecutive starts among QBs in league history. Kellen Clemens would be the starter if Rivers can’t go.
RAMS: Robert Woods declared himself the most dangerous wideout in Los Angeles with his 171 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. Woods helped the Rams improve to a NFC West best 7-2 after shellacking the Texans, 33-7, at the Coliseum.
Over the last two games, Woods has hauled in 12 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns. One of those 12 receptions was a career long 94-yard touchdown. Woods is averaging 92 yards receiving per game during the winning streak. Prior to the winning streak, Woods was averaging almost half that: 50.4 yards in the first five games to start the season. Woods has four touchdowns in the last two games, but was unable to find paydirt in the first seven games.
The Rams are looking like one of the best all around football teams in the NFL. During the last four games, the Rams have scored 144 points while only allowing their opponents a measly 41. The +103 point differential is the best in the league over the last five weeks. In fact, the Rams remain atop the league in point differential with +134.
Only the Rams(+134), Eagles(+104), and the Saints(+103) have scored over 100 points more than they have allowed this season. All three teams are in the NFC and lead respective their divisions.
Next week, the Rams will head back east to face Case Keenum and the Minnesota Vikings in what many NFL insiders predict will be a playoff preview.
The Vikes are 7-2 as well and lead the NFC North by two games over the Lions. Minnesota is on a nice five game winning streak of its own coming into the matchup on Sunday.
Mike Zimmer has decided to stick with Keenum, who is 5-2 as the starting quarterback for the Vikings, and is coming off a huge win on the road against a pretty good Washington team lead by Kirk Cousins.
The explosive Rams offense will depend on its deep playbook with countless options for Jared Goff to audible into so they could score against the Vikes’ stingy defense. Minnesota has held its opponents to a combined 164 points all year.
Todd Gurley is going to need to be a factor in the game in Minnesota or else Jared Goff and company will have a long day against a talented Vikings defense. In the end, I believe the Rams will be able to outscore the Vikings, not because of their outlandish offense but instead their dominating defense. I predict a 27-13 Rams victory to improve to 8-2 this Sunday.