Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.
1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (4-2)
Last week: San Diego reverted back to its old ways in a 27-21 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Chargers held a 21-10 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter and lost as Philip Rivers threw two interceptions and the Chargers failed to score in the second half. Leading 21-17, San Diego was in position to close the game in the third quarter when a Rivers pass to Vincent Jackson was tipped and intercepted by Darrelle Revis, who returned it 64 yards to set up a Jets touchdown. Rivers threw another interception during a potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. The Chargers have now lost two games this season, both on the east coast to teams that made the playoffs the past two years. These are games they will have to win at some point if they want to be considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
This week: The Chargers play the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday Night Football. The 0-3 Chiefs team the Chargers beat a few weeks ago in San Diego is not the same Chiefs team the Chargers will see Monday night. In fact, the turning point in the Chiefs’ season may have come when they almost beat the Chargers after losing their first two games by a combined score of 89-10. If San Diego is going to bounce back from last week’s loss they will need Rivers to start playing like a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Rivers has seven touchdown passes and nine interceptions, which is four fewer interceptions than he had all of last season. In his last game against the Chiefs on Sept. 25, he had no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 20-17 win.
L.A. Story: Much has been made of the Chargers’ lease at Qualcomm Stadium where they can announce their intention to leave San Diego between Feb. 1 and May 1 of each year through 2020 if they pay an early termination fee tied to the bonds used to expand Qualcomm in 1997, which would be about $24 million after the 2011 season. The key date is actually Feb. 15. Under the NFL’s “Policy and Procedures for Proposed Franchise Relocations” it states that the NFL commissioner must receive written notice from the team wishing to relocate and that “the notice must be filed no later than February 15 of the year in which the move is scheduled to occur.” That notice would also be published "in newspapers of general circulation within the incumbent community." A league source confirmed the rule this week and said it is not only important for the league but for the team, which would need to move as soon after the Super Bowl as possible to begin the process of selling tickets and building a fan base in their new community with the first events being the NFL draft and OTA’s in April. A move in May would simply be too late.
2. OAKLAND RAIDERS (4-3)
Last week: Oakland lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 28-0 at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Kansas City’s biggest road win over the Raiders since 1966 came at the expense of Kyler Boller and Carson Palmer, who combined for six interceptions. Boller played so poorly in the first half that Raiders coach Hue Jackson forced Palmer onto the field in the second half, just five days after he was signed by the team and ten months after he had taken a meaningful snap in the NFL. His rust quickly showed as he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown that put the game away for the Chiefs.
This week: The Raiders’ bye week couldn’t come at a better time as Palmer and his teammates will work overtime during the break to get acclimated with one another.
L.A. Story: The future of the Raiders in Oakland will always be in question as long as Mark Davis remains silent in regards to his intentions to keep or sell the team but if the Raiders wanted to leave Oakland in February of 2012 or 2013, it would not be hard for them to do so. The Raiders have a lease to play at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum through the 2013 season but if they were to leave before the end of the 2013 season, the Raiders would only have to pay Oakland and Alameda County $5 million. In other words, the Raiders’ out clause is about $20 million cheaper than the Chargers’ in San Diego.
3. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-6)
Last week: Minnesota lost to the Green Bay Packers 33-27 at the Metrodome in what was perhaps the Vikings' best game of the season. The Christian Ponder era in Minnesota nearly began with an upset win over the undefeated Super Bowl champions. Ponder threw 219 yards and two touchdowns but he also threw two interceptions that ultimately prevented an improbable comeback win after being down 33-17 in the fourth quarter.
This week: The Vikings face the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday in what should be an interesting battle of rookie quarterbacks between Cam Newton and Ponder. Newton has breathed new life into the 2-5 Panthers who have scored 18 offensive touchdowns this season, exceeding the 16 the team scored all of last season. Judging from his debut last week, Ponder could end up having a similar effect on what had been Minnesota's anemic offense.
L.A. Story: A group of Minnesota legislators announced this week they are opposed to putting public money into a new Vikings stadium and for the first time admitted they would have no problem letting the team leave the state rather than be forced to cut an unfavorable deal. Now this doesn’t mean the Vikings are leaving and moving out west. Minnesota governor Mark Dayton will call lawmakers into special session before Thanksgiving to vote on hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies but it does mean this situation will get uglier before a resolution is reached. No matter what comes out of the special session, the smart money is on the Vikings staying in Minnesota one more year before deciding to leave if they don’t get the proper public financing for a new stadium.
4. ST. LOUIS RAMS (0-6)
Last week: St. Louis lost to the Dallas Cowboys 34-7 at Cowboys Stadium in a game where the Rams allowed seldom-used Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray to rush for a Cowboys-record 253 yards. On Murray’s 91-yard run in the first half, he went virtually untouched.
This week: The Rams will play the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday and Rams quarterback Sam Bradford remains a questionable for the game with a high ankle sprain. Bradford, who has been sacked a NFL-high 21 times, has again not practiced this week while getting treatment. If Bradford doesn’t start, A.J. Feeley would play in his place for the second straight week. Last week Feeley 20 of 33 passes for 196 yards no touchdowns and one interception in a loss to Dallas.
L.A. Story: Jack Youngblood may be the toughest player to ever play in the NFL but the man has feelings too. While on a tour to promote his new book, Youngblood told us that the current St. Louis Rams have all but cut ties with him and his former Los Angeles Rams teammates. “We are their legacy but they forgot us," Youngblood said. “They don't have anything to do with us, really. I find that unfortunate because you look at other franchises, even those that have moved, and they use their alumni in their marketing and in their organization. They use their Hall of Famers as an example for the players who are there today. They use their alumni, but the Rams have cut us out of the picture.”