Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Rams, Chargers falling out of NFL playoff picture

Basketball season has just started and the two Los Angeles teams are rising to the top of the Western Conference standings as the city’s two NFL teams are sinking, like the sun, into the West.

So much for the preseason prognosticators who thought we could have an L.A. Super Bowl between the Chargers and the Rams at the end of the season.

At 5-4, the Rams have a better record than the Chargers (4-6), but the Chargers are closer to the division lead, trailing the Kansas City Chiefs by two games while the Rams are three games back of the San Francisco 49ers and 2 ½ games behind the Seattle Seahawks.

To be fair, both teams have been hit by injuries this season.

The Chargers got hit by injuries early when second-year safety Derwin James hurt his foot before the season even started. They lost another defensive back, Adrian Phillips the second week of the season and have lost offensive lineman Mike Pouncey and Forest Lamp in recent weeks.

The Chargers also missed running back Melvin Gordon, who held out for a new contract, missing the first few weeks of the season. Gordon still hasn’t gotten untracked and the Chargers offense has suffered without him.

The Chargers can cut the Chiefs lead over them in half Nov. 18 when they battle in Mexico City, but that would mean containing young quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the explosive Chiefs offense.

That also would mean that Philip Rivers is going to have to get the Chargers offense going. The Chargers scored 30 points a game in the first and third weeks of the season. They haven’t been there since.

The Rams are coming off a 17-12 loss to Pittsburgh that saw the Steelers stymie their offense most of the night. Neither Cooper Kupp nor Todd Gurley caught a pass from Jared Goff in the game. Goff was intercepted twice and sacked four times and head coach Sean McVay no longer seems like the offensive genius he was his first two years as coach.

Of course, the Rams, like the Chargers, have been hard by injuries and two more offensive linemen went down against the Steelers.

Both local teams get to play in prime time this week, with the Rams playing the Sunday night game against the Chicago Bears at the Coliseum.

The Bears have a hard-nosed defense that will out the heat on Goff. This might be the week when the Rams would like to see Gurley show his all-star form that has been missing for most of the season.

Gurley hasn’t had a run from scrimmage longer than 25 yards this year and he hasn’t caught a pass for more than 13 yards. He also has only seven touchdowns this year after leading the league the last two seasons with 19 in 2017 and 21 last year.

PLAYOFF BOUND: The local NBA teams, the Lakers and Clippers have never faced each other in a playoff series. That could end this season.

After losing to the Toronto Raptors, Nov. 10, the Lakers no longer have the best record in the NBA, but their 8-2 mark trails only Boston’s 8-1.

At 7-3, the Clippers are tied for the fourth best record with six other teams, so both teams are playing at a playoff level to start the season, and Paul George still hasn’t played in a game for the Clippers yet.

The Lakers have got Kyle Kuzma and Rajon Rondo back from injury in the last week, making them a deeper team than they already were.

The Lakers are getting remarkably good play from the center position. Javale McGee is starting and Dwight Howard is coming off the bench.

In their win over the Phoenix Suns Nov. 12, the duo combined for 23 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shots in only 30 minutes of work.

That has allowed Anthony Davis to spend more time at the power forward position that he prefers. Davis is averaging 26.3 points and 10.5 rebounds a game while nursing a sore shoulder.

He and LeBron James are working together well. James is averaging 24 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11 assists a game, though that assist number might drop now that Rondo is playing again.

Kuzma scored 23 points in 25 minutes against Phoenix, showing he is back from the foot injury that sidelined him for the start of the season. The Lakers are playing so well that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has averaged scoring in double figures the last two seasons, played only eight minutes against Phoenix, scoring only two points.

The Clippers are managing Kawhi Leonard’s minutes, sitting him out of games twice so far during back-to-back nights. The Clippers have lost both games Leonard has set out, 110-96 against the Utah Jazz Oct. 30 and 129-124 to the Milwaukee Bucks Nov. 6.

The Toronto Raptors were 17-5 when Leonard sat out last year.

Still, Leonard is giving the Clippers what they wanted from him, averaging 26.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists a game.

The Clippers will be even better when George returns to the lineup.

Like the Lakers, the Clippers are a deep team. Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell continue to shine off the bench

George has averaged 19.8 points and 6.4 rebounds throughout his career, but he has averaged 21.9 points or more in each of the last four seasons after bouncing back from a badly broken leg suffered in the 2014 offseason.

He and Leonard are both outstanding two-way players who don’t take much time off on defense.

Center Ivica Zubac will wind up proving the Lakers were wrong to trade him last season. He is averaging 9.2 points and 7 rebounds a game in only 16 minutes.

Patrick Beverley doesn’t need to score to have an impact on the game. He is a disruptive player on defense who provides a spark whenever he comes into a game.