ESPN senior writer Mike Sando asks league insiders to pick winners in select games each week. Three evaluators joined the panel for Week 3. This week's games: Chargers-Rams, Saints-Falcons, Bengals-Panthers, Broncos-Ravens and Steelers-Bucs.
Sunday: 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS | Point spread: LAR by 7 | Insiders pick: LAR (3/3)
All three insiders give the Chargers a chance if Philip Rivers can stake them to an early lead and turn this game into a battle between the quarterbacks. All thought that was a bit of a long shot under the circumstances.
"The Chargers have shown their explosiveness offensively, but missing [Joey] Bosa on defense has a big effect and they are getting really thin at corner with no depth behind the starters," an insider said. "I'll pick the Rams because they are rolling, but it could be a high-scoring, back-and-forth game."
Both teams rank among the NFL's top five in pass completions gaining more than 15 yards. Both rank among the top five in Total QBR differential.
One question for the Chargers: Have they fixed their special teams? The 2017 team ranked 381st out of 384 teams since 2006 in ESPN's special-teams efficiency metric. Then, in a Week 1 loss to Kansas City, the Chargers posted their worst single-game mark in special-teams efficiency since the inception of the metric, a span of 193 regular-season games (194 after Week 2, which was much better for the Chargers from a special-teams standpoint).
The Rams are No. 2 to Kansas City in special-teams efficiency since the start of last season, but they will be without injured kicker Greg Zuerlein for several weeks.
"I just can't bet against the Rams right now," an insider said. "That defense has been ferocious. They are just now figuring it out. The only way I see the Chargers winning is if they get ahead quick, but I don't think the Rams' defense allows that."