After this weekend, the Rams’ season ends and the Chargers will play on. Chargers beat writer Jeff Miller and Rams beat writer Gary Klein address fans’ concerns and questions:
How is it decided which team wins a tiebreaker for a higher seed in the playoffs? If Baltimore and the Chargers have the same record, which team is the fifth seed and why?
David Sanchez, Canoga Park
Miller: First tiebreaker is head to head. Since the Chargers and Ravens didn’t play each other this season, the next tiebreaker is conference record. The Chargers are 7-4 in the AFC and the Ravens 6-5, which gives the Chargers the edge. If the conference records are the same, the next tiebreaker is record against common opponents.
Backup quarterbacks become more important as a season progresses and starters get injured. How are backup quarterbacks selected and prepared?
Bill Francis, Pasadena
Klein: Backup quarterbacks are signed by teams for a variety of reasons, including cost, experience, fit for a system, and other factors. The Rams, for example, are paying starter Matthew Stafford tens of millions of dollars. So they opt budgetwise not to invest heavily in backups. That was the philosophy when they arrived back in L.A. under former coach Jeff Fisher and how they have operated under Sean McVay. Blake Bortles was a high-profile backup a few years ago, but that was only because the Jacksonville Jaguars were paying him so much after releasing him. Backups typically run the offense against the starting defense during game preparation and assist the starter and quarterbacks coach during games.
The Chargers typically “dress” two QBs for game day. If both suffered concussions, who would be the “emergency QB”?
Jim Garman, Redondo Beach
Miller: Now this is a question! Love it. My guess would be Keenan Allen, who’s someone we’ve seen at least throw a pass in a game. They could go with Austin Ekeler in a wildcat-type situation, which we’ve also seen recently. Hey, Joshua Kelley threw a backward pass the other day, too.
Will the Rams take the lessons learned from this past season and use their first draft pick in the second round of the NFL draft in April on an offensive lineman?
Brian Haueter, Ventura
Klein: Offensive linemen will be a priority for the Rams, but that does not necessarily mean they will choose a lineman with their first pick in the draft. They did that last year when they selected offensive lineman Logan Bruss with their first pick — and then saw him suffer a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. The Rams no doubt must improve that position group, but the draft is not the only means. Trades and free-agent signings are other routes.
I wondered at the time, and three years later I still wonder, why did Miami think that Tua Tagovailoa was better than Justin Herbert? Which begs the question, if Miami had taken Herbert, would the Chargers have taken Tua?
Bob Oh, Sylmar
Miller: In my opinion, yes, the Chargers would have taken Tua Tagovailoa. But, that’s just a guess. In reality, we’ll never know for sure. Heading into that draft, there were significant questions about Justin Herbert, many centered on his abilities as a leader. It wasn’t shocking when Miami took Tagovailoa. The biggest issues with Tagovailoa were health-related, which is what we’re seeing now, unfortunately for him and the Dolphins. But, you can Google it. A lot of people had major doubts about Herbert back then.
Not really a question. But a suggestion. The Chargers still need to give San Diego credit, man. There’s a lot of San Diego fans that still attend the games up in L.A. We’ve only been loyal San Diegan fans for the past 50+ years from their one-year stunt in L.A. when the organization first was founded. More recognition for San Diego would definitely be a big plus on fan happiness.
Josue Lopez, Oceanside, CA
Miller: Honest question: What would giving San Diego credit look like? I’m not sure what you’re thinking the Chargers should do. I have no doubt that there are still plenty of people in San Diego following the Chargers. I mean, the team only moved a short distance away. But they’re trying to grow roots in L.A. now and that’s the franchise’s focus.
Are the Rams finally getting their “Run Game” together? Is it more touches for the RBs? Is the line given more complexity in their run-game blocking? Also, it seems their run plays weren’t so predictable and obvious.
Klein: The Rams’ rushing attack improved the last two games because running back Cam Akers finally appears to have regained the burst he had before suffering an Achilles injury before the 2021 season. Yes, that was a remarkable comeback he made for the final regular-season game and the playoffs, but he did not look anything like the player that flashed as a rookie in 2020. Coach Sean McVay has given Akers more opportunities, and the line has performed well of late. This late in the season, there are no complexities being worked into the system. If anything, they have tried to make it simple so it can be executed.
Will Brandon Staley keep his job or will the Chargers hire Sean Payton? What is your opinion?
Rafael Castells, Naples, Fla.
Will the Chargers hire Sean Payton, even if they make the playoffs?
Miller: I think Brandon Staley keeps his job. Two things to remember with whoever hires Payton: He’s going to want a giant salary and he’s going to cost multiple high draft picks. He’s still under contract with New Orleans and the Saints are going to demand draft capital.
Who was the last NFL team to prevent its opponent from successfully converting a third down during an entire game? (With a minimum of 10 attempts)
Winston Campbell, Alpine
Miller: The Chargers just did it Dec. 26 against Indianapolis. The Colts were 0 for 10.