Which NFL team will take over L.A. first? Rams or Chargers?

Gordon feels for loyal San Diego fans (1:21)

Melvin Gordon says he has spoken with Chargers fans and truly understands how tough it is for them to see their team move to Los Angeles. (1:21)

LOS ANGELES -- In 12 months, Los Angeles went from zero professional football teams to one too many. The Rams moved back here from St. Louis in January 2016, then the Chargers moved back here from San Diego in January 2017. A city that spent two decades clamoring for the NFL's return now has a couple of floundering franchises that it doesn't very much care for. In some ways, though, it means the market is up for grabs.

The Rams have history here, but it's too far removed. The Chargers have history here, but it's composed of one season. L.A.'s general populace has a tendency to quickly lose interest if the winning is not prevalent, with the only potential exceptions being the Lakers and Dodgers. Success is the only way the Chargers and Rams will capture the hearts and minds of the nation's second-largest media market, and in a sense, the Chargers' presence has created something of a race to see who can win first.

The Chargers (Anthony Lynn) and Rams (Sean McVay) each hired first-year, offensive-minded head coaches on the very same day, after the two teams combined to finish 9-23. The Rams should be happy the Chargers are here, because the alternative was the ever-popular Raiders, who may have lost Las Vegas as a primary option. With the Chargers as neighbors, the Rams at least have a chance to stand out. But are they more primed for success? (Eric Williams, ESPN's Chargers beat reporter, doesn't think so.)

Below is a section-by-section comparison, starting with their numbers over the last two seasons.


Rams: 11-21
Chargers: 9-23

Point margin

Rams: -220
Chargers: -91

Average yards gained

Rams: 280.1
Chargers: 364.3

Average yards allowed

Rams: 352.4
Chargers: 354.5

Pro Bowl invites

Rams: 6 (DT Aaron Donald [2], P Johnny Hekker [2], RB Todd Gurley, LS Jake McQuaide)
Chargers: 4 (QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon, CB Casey Hayward, CB Jason Verrett)

Offense: This one isn't close. The Chargers have an elite, established quarterback in Rivers, a premier running back in Gordon and, if healthy, a legitimate No. 1 receiver in Keenan Allen. They averaged 25.6 points per game last year, ninth-highest in the NFL, while the Rams have spent each of the last two seasons dead last in average yards. Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016, had one of the worst rookie seasons ever for a quarterback. Gurley, the No. 10 overall pick in 2015, had one of the biggest second-year drop-offs ever for a running back. And the Rams' receiving corps has lacked a reliable, consistent playmaker pretty much since the days of Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Oh, and their offensive line was quite possibly the worst in the game last season. Edge: Chargers

Defense: The Chargers have a couple of Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Hayward and Verrett. They have a young, dynamic defensive end in Joey Bosa, who was taken third overall in 2016. And they have a couple of solid contributors in defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and linebacker Jatavis Brown. But the Rams have arguably the game's best defensive player in Donald, the centerpiece of a defensive line that can be devastating at full strength. They have a couple of athletic linebackers in Alec Ogletree and Mark Barron. And they recently hired one of the NFL's most accomplished defensive coordinators in Wade Phillips. The Rams defense fell off down the stretch, but that was largely because their hapless offense put so much pressure on this unit. If they can re-sign cornerback Trumaine Johnson and shore up depth throughout their secondary, they'll be just fine here. Edge: Rams

Intangibles: The Rams can tell you all about the tolls of a move. In 2016, their facilities went from St. Louis to Oxnard to Irvine to Thousand Oaks. Their season was in a constant state of flux, exacerbated by a hectic regular-season travel schedule. Over time, many in the organization believe, the move ultimately took its toll on the field, though the magnitude is impossible to determine. The Chargers are moving from closer proximity, so they won't have it quite as bad. But they'll face their own challenges, and they're in a tougher division. Edge: Rams

Recent past: The Rams haven't made the playoffs since 2004, haven't won their division since 2003 and have now gone 10 straight years with a losing record. The Chargers won four straight division titles from 2006 to '09, finished .500 or better in 10 of 11 seasons leading up to 2015 and made the playoffs as recently as 2013. Edge: Chargers

Immediate future: The Chargers might have been only one win better than the Rams last season, but they were generally a lot better than their record indicated. They led the league in players on injured reserve, led at one point in 15 of 16 games and led in the fourth quarter in six of their contests, all of which ended as losses. A couple of breaks can easily lead to drastic improvement next season. The Rams were one of the NFL's healthiest teams for most of 2016 and still finished with seven consecutive losses, getting outscored by a whopping 136 points during that stretch. Their defense is solid and their special teams play is a major strength. But there is way too much work to do with the offense. Edge: Chargers