Chargers will win the fight for Los Angeles

Jan 17, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn poses at a press conference to announce his hiring as head coach at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn poses at a press conference to announce his hiring as head coach at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Chargers are a good team. In fact, they may be close to contending, as injured players are returning to health and the team, at least on paper, looks solid on both sides of the ball.

Here is my not-so-bold prediction: The Chargers will win the “Fight for Los Angeles.” And it won’t be close.

The reason why I say this isn’t a bold prediction is because the Chargers are just a much better team than the L.A. Rams. A comparison of each team’s offense and defense shows that this isn’t really that close a contest, at least on paper.

Rams bright spots

Before Rams fans get upset, as an Angelino, I do consider myself a fan. And yes, we can easily acknowledge the awesomeness of Rams star DT Aaron Donald. What’s not to like about this guy? He’s amazing and will just get better.

WR Kenny Britt had a 1,000-yard season (his first ever and the team’s first since 2007). Everyone also knows about the Rams’ special teams excellence, led by Pro Bowler Johnny Hekker and coach John Fassel.

The Rams have the youngest head coach in NFL history in Sean McVay, so there are questions about his abilities and experience. However, they did hire a defensive-minded wizard in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and kept Fassel, who finished the year as interim head coach, on special teams. Both were very good moves by the front office.

Rams have the only staff with DC on Medicare and HC in Daycare

— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) February 2, 2017

Rams questions

But outside of those bright spots, there isn’t much more to look forward to in 2017 for the Rams. There are still questions at QB. Is Jared Goff the answer? The team sure spent a lot for him.

Their running game suffered behind a weak offensive line and a second-year back who did not find his groove all year. Todd Gurley’s frustrations spilled over at the end of the season, with his calling out players for just phoning it in.

Still, the team is coming off a messy divorce with St. Louis and is young (youngest roster, starting QB and coach in the NFL), so there is that. Time will tell.

The Chargers are a different story.

Chargers injuries

2016 was a tough year for the Chargers. The season was plagued by injuries.

On the offensive side, WR Keenan Allen suffered a torn ACL in the very first game of the season. RB Danny Woodhead followed suit, suffering a similar injury during the second game of the season. And although it was late in the season, RB Melvin Gordon finished three yards short of a 1,000 yards due to a hip injury.

On the defensive side, the Chargers were without their captain, as NT Brandon Mebane went down early with a biceps injury. Pro Bowl CB Jason Verrett went down with an ACL injury and Manti Te’o also missed most of the season with an Achilles injury.

Need more injury stats? Check out how many injured players the Chargers had in the last four weeks of the season, courtesy of Pro Football Reference’s Injury Tracker.

A distraction-plagued season

2016 was the team’s last season in San Diego. Players and fans knew it, which affected team support and vilified team owner Dean Spanos. Add to that all the other distractions the team had to contend with on top of the injuries and it is easy to see why the team ended up with a 5 -11 record.

Granted, there are no excuses in the NFL, but the team had to battle through an injury-filled roster, a rejected joint Carson venue with the Raiders, a failed initiative to get funding for a stadium in San Diego, the inability to close out games by blowing leads and the subsequent L.A. move and angst that ensued for San Diego fans.

Chargers rising

Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; San Diego Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa (99) celebrates a sack with outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) against the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter at the Georgia Dome. The Chargers defeated the Falcons 33-30 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

However, the tide may be turning in favor of the Chargers. The team has acquired a great pool of coaching experience, injured players are close to coming back and the team has managed to keep their pass-rushing star in Ingram. He will work alongside defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who captured the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, and the NFL interception leader, CB Casey Hayward.

Antonio Gates will be playing his 15th season with the Chargers. Even at 36 years of age and on the eve of contemplating retirement last year, he remains, per new head coach Anthony Lynn, the “cornerstone” of the team, at least offensively.

Lastly on the injury front, Woodhead and Allen are both reported to being close to 100 percent, solidifying a running and passing game with Pro Bowl QB Philip Rivers at the helm and fellow Pro Bowler Gordon. The Chargers hired John Lott to be the team’s new strength and conditioning coach, too, so hopefully injuries won’t be as bad.

A post shared by Danny Woodhead (@teamwoody39) on Feb 28, 2017 at 9:39am PST

Chargers challenges

There will be a few things the team will contend with in 2017. As reported by the L.A. Times, the team only has about $6 million to play with in the free agent market. That’s partly due to the $14.5 million franchise tag placed on Ingram.

Also, the team will be playing in the NFL’s smallest venue while their shared stadium with the Rams is being built.

But the difficult part (outside of playing) is done. The team made the move to L.A. and hired one of the most experienced coaching staffs in the NFL. In turn, the team will hit the turf with quality “healthy” players on both sides of the ball.

Chargers charging towards success in L.A.

Jan 18, 2017; Inglewood, CA, USA; Confetti falls during the Los Angeles Chargers Kickoff Ceremony as Inglewood mayor James Butts, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Los Angeles Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and Chargers owner Dean Spanos, coach Anthony Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers watch at the The Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Chargers are rising. I certainly see the team contending for the playoffs this year (if not winning the Super Bowl).

Final predictions

Therefore, my final “bold” prediction is this: The Los Angeles Chargers will succeed before the Los Angeles Rams do.

That in turn will make 2019 an awkward year for Stan Kroenke, as the “tenants” will own the joint. The Chargers will be playing high-octane football while Kroenke’s Rams will still be looking for a winning identity (and new uniforms).

I’ll take it a step forward and predict that the Chargers will win a Super Bowl in L.A. before the Rams do.

Have differing thoughts? Let’s hear them below.