With the Chargers only having three days off before their Week 2 road game against the AFC West rival Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday and the Super Bowl champion Rams having nine days off to ponder their loss to Buffalo, Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller, Rams beat writer Gary Klein and columnist Dylan Hernández discuss what has happened and what lies ahead.
Taking only this season into consideration, which quarterback would you rather have leading your team toward Super Bowl LVII — the Chargers’ Justin Herbert or the Rams’ Matthew Stafford?
Miller: Justin Herbert and it’s not even close. I can’t fathom anyone taking Stafford in this situation. Sunday against Las Vegas, Herbert threw at least three passes that nearly defied description. We’re talking about a player who could go down as the greatest passer in NFL history. Herbert winning the MVP award in 2022 is a thing that actually could happen.
Klein: C’mon. Really? Justin Herbert was outstanding last season, and he is off to a great start. The young man is going to make a ton of money and perhaps win some championships. But he hasn’t done it yet. He hasn’t played in, let alone won, a playoff game. Stafford proved last season, especially in the playoffs and Super Bowl, that he can carry a team to a championship.
Hernández: When you’re a beat writer, particularly one who covers a team as thoroughly as Gary does, you sometimes have no idea what’s going on outside of your bubble. So, dear readers, please take it easy on our friend, Gary. Pardon him for his absolutely ridiculous opinion. Herbert is a generational talent. I won’t disparage Stafford, but he’s just not in the same class as Herbert.
Who has more pressure on them this week, the Rams in danger of going 0-2 at home against the Falcons or the 1-0 Chargers playing at the AFC West rival Chiefs, also 1-0.
Miller: I don’t think either team should be feeling any extra amount of pressure, to be honest. With the Rams, it’s only Week 2 and they’re double-digit favorites at home. Having said that, they are the ones who can afford to lose less. But it’s not like they’re playing Tom Brady. The Chargers aren’t expected to win in K.C. and can go there knowing a victory would be a bonus.
Klein: The Rams have more pressure. They are defending Super Bowl champions. They lost an opener under coach Sean McVay for the first time. The Falcons are rebuilding and coming off a loss in which they blew a 16-point fourth-quarter lead. The Rams loss to the Bills was embarrassing. A defeat by the Falcons would be justified cause for Rams fans to hit the panic button. The Chiefs are legit Super Bowl contenders. A Chargers victory in Kansas City would be a great win for coach Brandon Staley, but a loss would not wreck the season.
Hernández: In the context of this season, Gary’s right, the Rams have more pressure. In the larger picture, however, the Chargers have more at stake. The Rams have already won their Super Bowl. The guess here is that the investment the Chargers made in their roster was in part a response to what the Rams did last season. As it was, the Chargers were the less popular of the two teams. People see them as losers, sort of how they see the Clippers. The Chargers are fighting for a place in a congested market and desperate to change their image.
Bills fans forced the Rams to go with a silent count. Raiders fans were out en masse for the game against Chargers. Anything the L.A. teams can do to ensure a true home-field advantage at SoFi Stadium?
Klein: Fortunately for the Rams and Chargers, they benefit from playing in a giant media market with access to millions of potential fans. Unfortunately for the teams, the Southland is home to transplants from all over the United States — and the world — not to mention legions of Raiders and San Francisco 49ers fans. As long as Rams fans are willing — and who can blame them? — to sell their tickets to offset the cost of their season ticket packages, it will be tough to eliminate opposing fans’ presence.
Miller: I’d suggest playing in L.A. and having some sustained success for another half-century or so. The NFL abandoned this market for two decades and then returned in full force when very few people here cared if pro football ever came back. The damage done will take time to undo. A lot of time. In the short term, no, there’s nothing either of these teams can do to fix this. Both just have to deal with it for now.
Hernández: I’m with Jeff on this. The L.A. teams will have to win and win for a long time. Last year, when the Rams were on their Super Bowl run, my son’s third-grade teacher convinced the students in her class to dress up in Rams’ colors. Maybe a few from that class became fans and will grow up to be season-ticket holders. That process will take a while.
What did we learn about the NFC West in Week 1?
Hernández: The division is as weak as we imagined. As bad as the Rams looked against the Bills, they should win the NFC West.
Miller: Wasn’t the NFC West like really good and deep not that long ago? Now, no one can win. I would be very surprised if the Rams don’t control this division this season.
Klein: But the Rams could be flirting with a Super Bowl hangover. The 49ers might have been smart to hold on to Jimmy Garoppolo. The Cardinals are still the Cardinals. The Seahawks and the division miss Russell Wilson’s fashion sense.
What did we learn about the AFC West in Week 1?
Hernández: Basically, this is the opposite of the NFC West. Makes you wonder if the Chargers could be to the AFC West what the San Diego Padres are to the National League West in baseball, with their roster upgrades bound to go to waste because they’re in an unwinnable division.
Miller: I will stick with my opinion that each team could finish 3-3 in division play, with every game decided by one score and a few requiring overtime. This Chargers-Chiefs matchup Thursday already feels like a classic — two full days before it even kicks off.
Klein: The Chargers invested wisely in additions on defense. Davante Adams is pretty good even when not catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. Patrick Mahomes is worth every penny of his contract. Russell Wilson knows how to make a stadium entrance.