Chargers and Rams set their sights on Super Bowl 56 at SoFi Stadium in 2022

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers victory at Super Bowl 55 in Tampa, another successful NFL season is over and in the books. Next year's Super Bowl will be staged at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, and in anticipation of this big event coming to Southern California, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams are both in the process of upgrading their football teams to hopefully be participants in next year's Big Game.

This will be the first Super Bowl played in Southern California since January 26, 2003, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders, 48-21 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The last Super Bowl played in Los Angeles County was on January 31, 1993 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, when the Dallas Cowboys crushed the Buffalo Bills, 52-17.

The off-season coaching carousel and quarterback carousel has affected both franchises. The Chargers jumped onto the coaching carousel quickly, with the firing of head coach Anthony Lynn and the hiring of Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley as their new head coach. Staley has put together a diverse and impressive staff since his hiring.

The Chargers job was attractive because of Charger quarterback Justin Herbert, the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Herbert is just 22 years of age (he turns 23 in March) and has a bright future ahead of him. If the offense was led by Tyrod Taylor, their starting quarterback in the first game last season the Chargers are just not that attractive. Herbert gives the Chargers a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl, the only question being, how soon?

According to Pro Football Focus, the Chargers had the worst offensive line in the NFL in 2020. The Chargers averaged 3.8 yards per carry running the ball, which ranked 30th in the NFL in 2020. Herbert was sacked 32 times in 15 games and hit a lot more than that. What made Herbert special this season was ability to throw under pressure. Pro Football Focus rated Herbert No.1 in the NFL when passing under pressure, which he did often behind last season's offensive line.

Despite having the worst offensive line in the NFL, Herbert thrived in 2020. He was second in the NFL in deep touchdown passes with 12, the most ever produced by a rookie. PFF had a passing grade of 91.2 for Herbert on passes over20 yards, one of the better grades in the NFL. With a good offensive line, an improved defense and a little bit of luck, the Chargers could be in the Super Bowl next season.

But the Chargers need to stay healthy, particularly safety Derwin James, who has only played in five games the past two seasons, and they need better talent on the offensive line to become a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Chargers go into the offseason with nine draft picks and according to they are currently $24 million under the salary cap, which gives them some salary flexibility to sign free agents.

The Rams jumped onto the quarterback carousel, trading quarterback Jared Goff to the Detroit Lions for quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Rams also sent to the Lions a 2022 first round pick, a 2023 first round pick and a 2021 third round pick. Goff had struggled the past two seasons and his inability or unwillingness to throw deep had turned the Rams offense into a dink-and-dunk passing attack.

Stafford played 12 seasons with the Lions and played well but never was able to get his Lions teams past the first round of the playoffs. He only had one 1,000-yard rusher in his 12 seasons in Detroit and the defense was usually among the worst in the NFL. The Lions have not won a division title since 1993. This Rams, who have made the playoffs three of the past four years, will be the best team he has ever played for at the NFL level. What Stafford did do was put up some great numbers in his career.

Stafford is 16th all-time in NFL history in passing yardage at 45,109. He is 16th in touchdown passes with 282. He is tied for 7th all-time in 4th quarter comebacks with John Elway at 31. Most importantly to the Rams, Stafford has one of the strongest arms in the NFL and will be able to stretch the field vertically, something that has been missing from the Rams passing attack in the past few years under Goff.

The Rams adding Stafford is a win now move. They have a Super Bowl in 2022 in their home venue and they want to be in it representing the National Football Conference (NFC). But SoFi Stadium is also the home venue for the Chargers, and they would like to be playing in the Super Bowl in 2022, representing the American Football Conference (AFC).

The Stafford acquisition could also be seen as a response to the development of Justin Herbert, who is now the face of the Charger franchise. If Herbert plays well and takes the Chargers to the playoffs on a regular basis, the Chargers could become a hot ticket in town, whenever the Covid-19 pandemic is behind us.

Herbert had eight 300-yard passing games last season (a rookie record) and will be the kind of player that Southern California fans love to watch, in the tradition of Charger greats Dan Fouts and Philip Rivers. Even with Stafford's statistical accomplishments and his rocket arm, a strong case can be made that Herbert is the better quarterback.

So, the Fight for LA battle is on and hopefully it will culminate in the Rams vs the Chargers on February 6, 2022, on Super Bowl Sunday. It would be great for the City of Los Angeles and it would be good for football in Southern California. The Raiders were the only Los Angeles franchise to win a Super Bowl and they have always had a huge following in Southern California, in some respects due to that championship. It is time for the Rams or the Chargers to knock them off that LA Super Bowl Champion Pedestal.


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