Afew weeks back, the Chargers were outsiders looking at a long dark future of empty seats and mediocrity, yet after the weekend’s 20-6 win over Oakland Raiders are they now contenders?
Three years ago Los Angeles had no NFL teams, now they have two, and both of those teams are looking like play-off contenders.
The Rams had a history in the City of Angels and were a team that had an established fanbase calling for a return. The Charges only moved 113 miles, and yet were received with much more reticent attitude.
Team owner Dean Spanos believed that a large portion of Chargers fans were based in Orange County, an area just south of LA and that those fans would follow and, at least LA will have a stadium suitable to play in – the Chargers will move into the new Rams Stadium in 2020.
Spanos has been wrong so far where the Chargers average attendance in LA is a little over 25,000 – still not a sell out in the 27,000-seater StubHub Centre. In comparison, the Cleveland Browns – in a considerably cooler climate – get 67,000 each week. This should be a concern for Spanos and the NFL as they have both committed to a 30-year stay in LA.
Of course, playing in front of a raucous home crowd is vital in any sport, and the advantage of vocal support comes when you can drown out the opposing team’s offensive play calls causing confusion, but the Chargers haven’t had that.
So what did The Bolts do? When they play at home on Sunday, it will have been 41 days since they last played in Carson, California. The team will have travelled 13,700miles taking in Cleveland, Wembley, Seattle and Oakland, spent 22 of those nights in hotels and will have spent a total of 39 hours in the air. If that’s not good for building team spirit, then throw in four wins during that time to stretch their winning streak to six.
The Chargers may be up against it in the stands, but they have used this adversity to build a stronger unit and to galvanise the team into a unit on the fringes of the play-offs. The feeling within the camp is that if the team continues to win then the fans will return and if they don’t? The team are closer than ever, and it won’t matter.
Next Sunday and Monday, if the Chargers win and city rivals the Rams beat the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers will share the best record in the NFC with the Chiefs. Fans or no fans, the Chargers will be contenders.
The curse of New England Patriots struck again as former player and Tennessee head Coach Mike Vrabel ‘s Titans dominated the perennial AFC champions in a 34-10 win – so much so that Tom Brady was rested late on with the game already lost. Also in the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills started their fourth quarterback of the year in Matt Barkley. Barkley, pictured, who didn’t have a team last season and only joined the Bills on 31 October, threw two touchdown passes in a 41-10 victory over the New York Jets.
The New Orleans Saints continued their dominance by putting up 51 points in a win over Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals weren’t helped by division rivals Pittsburgh also putting up 50 points in Thursday night’s matchup with Carolina.
The LA Rams bounced back from losing their unbeaten record in New Orleans the previous week by returning home to beat the Seattle Seahawks 36-31. That was win number eight and, if they win on Sunday, they could guarantee a play-off spot.
The Cleveland Browns continued the improvement they showed last week beating Atlanta Falcons 28-16, with a 92-yard Bradley Chubb touchdown as one of the stand out plays. That was win number three for the Browns and another win this year would equal the number they have won in the past three years.
Chicago and Washington both picked up valuable wins to take control of the NFC North and East respectively. In a rivalry matchup late on Sunday, last year’s Super Bowl Champion Eagles looked to have set themselves a tough task after a tight loss to the Dallas Cowboys left then languishing with a 4-5 record.