Austin Ekeler won fantasy leagues all over America. The Los Angeles Chargers moved up to the five seed in the AFC playoffs, but there’s still a lot that can happen.
Ekeler had a 72-yard touchdown run – one of two on the day to make his fantasy owners rejoice – and the Chargers won the second official Battle of LA between the two squads with a pedestrian 31-10 win Sunday over the Rams at SoFi Stadium.
With one week left in the NFL regular season, the Rams will play at Seattle against the Seahawk team still battling for a playoff spot, while the Chargers go to Denver to face the Broncos, who have nothing to play for. Tickets are available for that one for $23.
Do the Chargers rest anyone in Denver? Do the Rams care about Seattle?
What’s At Stake For The Chargers
As of Monday morning, the Chargers wake up 10-6 and in the fifth spot in the playoffs. They have won four in a row. They’re tied with the Ravens for the fifth spot, but have it on a tiebreaker.
It’s complicated what happens next.
The Ravens may have something to play for in Week 18, or might not. It depends on what happens in the Monday Night game tonight between the Bills and Bengals. If the Bills win, then the Ravens can still win the division by beating the Bengals in Week 18. If the Bengals win, they clinch the division and the Ravens and Bengals will have nothing to play for.
Everyone in the AFC wants to be the 5 seed, because that gives you either the Titans or Jaguars on the road in the first round. Even that though isn’t a great look for the Chargers because the Jags handled the Chargers pretty easily early in the season.
Is The Charger Defense Like, Good Now?
Expect a lot to be said about the Chargers defense “resurgence” during the last four weeks, and yes, they haven’t given up a lot of points.
But they haven’t played anyone either.
In this win streak, they have beat the Dolphins, who are 0-5 in their last five games. They beat the Titans, who are 0-6 in their last six. They beat the Colts who started Nick Foles and are 0-6 in their last six and the Rams who started a QB Sunday who wasn’t on the team until a few weeks ago.
The Chargers run defense is still porous. The Rams gashed them for over six yards a carry. The Rams defense was just largely indifferent for most of the game allowing also over six yards a carry.
Joey Bosa was back for the Chargers, but he didn’t do much but stand on the sidelines and look menacing.
How About That Cam Akers?
The star for the Rams Sunday was clearly Akers. He had 123 yards on the ground with a long run of 42 (again, I wouldn’t be that impressed by that, the Chargers give up a big run almost every game).
We will probably never really transpired with Akers and Sean McVay and the Rams. He went home for a while mid-season. The Rams allegedly were looking to trade him.
But the last two weeks against the pitiful Broncos and the Chargers he’s looked quick, smooth, shifty. Is it possible all he needed was some rest? Remember, he played as a rookie, then he pops his Achilles over the summer, rehabs like beast and plays at the end of the year. Then training camp and plays again this year (I also think he looks slimmer now then he did at the start of the season). Maybe all he needed was a break?
Baker Mayfield Watch
Mayfield didn’t really hurt or help himself much on Sunday. He uncorked some super throws. There was a sling to Van Jefferson for a 39-yard gain that was fantastic.
He also looked a little low on pocket presence, getting the ball knocked away from him, and not feeling the rush a couple of times.
I know we all want to rush to judgment on Mayfield and his future in the NFL…or with the Rams, but it’s still a little early to tell. He’s not throwing to great wide receivers like Justin Herbert is right now, the offensive line for the Rams is still journeyman central.
But I like Mayfield. I think he plays with passion and plays hard. Does that make him a guy who can take a team to the Super Bowl? I don’t know at this point and we still probably won’t know after he plays next week either.
Where Do The Rams Go From Here?
The Rams will have their trips to the beach planned after the Seahawk game. It seems like it was a long time ago, but the Seahawks and Rams played one of the best games of the Rams season, with Seattle scoring late to win 27-23.
But do the Rams have anything left in the tank for this game? The season has been a struggle since about Week 5. They’re 5-11, looking at one of the worst seasons ever by a defending Super Bowl champion. They didn’t look super interested against the Chargers, and against a Seattle team with a lot on the line, it may be over quick. McVay gets lots of credit for the way he handles his teams and builds relationships, yeah, that’s all easy when your team is winning, how do you do it when the only thing you have to play for is pride?
Did You Notice?
The Rams ran right at Joey Bosa on the first two plays of the game, both for nice gains. Bosa finished the game with two tackles.
On the Ekeler 72-yard TD run, Rams defensive back Troy Hill came sliding over to make the tackle. It was his play to make, but he went low and Ekeler just scooted over him. That type of poor effort was indicative of the Rams performance.
Chargers put the game away on their first drive of the second half. They had a third and short around the Rams 12-yard line and Herbert did a quick sneak for the first down. Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner was clearly annoyed at the Rams effort on the play, gesturing at the defensive line.
Mike Williams hauled in a pass early in the fourth quarter near the Rams 40 and went down. It looked to me like Rams DB Decobie Durant jumped over him but never touched him. Williams briefly started to run again and then stopped. The play was never reviewed, but it looked like Williams could have kept going.
The Chargers four-game win streak is their longest since 2020 when they won four straight to end the season. The Chargers still fired coach Anthony Lynn at the end of the season anyway.