Chargers host the Rams: Who has the edge?

Chargers host the Rams: Who has the edge?

CHARGERS (9-6) vs. RAMS (5-10)

When: 1: 25 p.m. Sunday

Where: SoFi Stadium

TV/Radio: Ch. 2/98.7 FM; 105.5 FM/94.3 FM (Spanish)

Line: Chargers by 6½

Notable injury designations: Chargers: FB Zander Horvath (questionable, ankle), S Derwin James Jr. (out, concussion). Rams: C Brian Allen (out, calf), DT Aaron Donald (out, ankle), LB Leonard Floyd (questionable, rest), TE Tyler Higbee (questionable, rest/elbow), WR Ben Skowronek (out, calf), QB John Wolford (out, neck).

What’s at stake: The Chargers clinched an AFC wild-card playoff berth with a victory Monday night over the Indianapolis Colts, but they’d like to win their final two regular-season games and move higher than their current sixth-seeded spot. The Rams won’t have a chance to defend their Super Bowl championship, having been eliminated from the NFC playoff race. The Chargers also would like to smooth out the rough edges of their game in their final two games before making their first playoff appearance since the 2018 season. They have failed to score a third-quarter touchdown for 10 consecutive, for one example. They’d also like to improve their scoring in all quarters, improving on their average of 22.1 points per game.

Who’s better: The Chargers are getting healthier, which is one sign of their superiority over the injury-depleted Rams. The Chargers’ better record is another indication. The Rams pose a challenge for the Chargers, with quarterback Baker Mayfield coming off a game in which he completed 24 of 28 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns in a 51-14 rout of the Denver Broncos last week. Running back Cam Akers also could be a handful for the Chargers. He had 118 yards and three touchdowns rushing plus another 29 yards receiving last week. The Rams will face a Chargers defense that has limited the opposition to six of 32 on third-down conversions in the past three games, including 0 of 10 against the Colts.

Matchup to watch: Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert appeared to have reached peak efficiency during a three-game winning streak. He’s been at his best with wide receivers Keenan Allen, who had 11 receptions for a season-best 104 yards last week against the Colts, and Mike Willaims (four catches for 76 yards against Indianapolis) healthy at the same time again. The Rams’ defense isn’t likely to suffocate the Chargers’ passing the game the way it did against the Broncos’ passing attack, when rookie defensive back Cobie Durant had two interceptions.

Chargers win if: The atmosphere around the Chargers as they prepared to face the Rams was almost giddy this past week. Can you blame them for feeling good about themselves after such an arduous journey to reach this point? The next question is whether they can put their joy after clinching a playoff berth behind them and focus on the task at hand. The Chargers are expected to go with their regulars against the Rams and then make a decision about resting key players in their regular-season finale against the Broncos. So, you can expect the best from Herbert and his receiving corps, including Austin Ekeler, who needs two catches to break LaDainian Tomlinson’s Chargers record of 100 receptions by a running back in a single season.

Fantasy sleeper: Cameron Dicker is the Chargers’ third kicker this season, after Dustin Hopkins and Taylor Bertolet suffered injuries. Dicker, a rookie who was in the Rams’ training camp, has stepped into his role without missing a beat. He’s made all 16 of his extra points and is 16 of 17 on his field-goal attempts. He’s been a big part of the Chargers’ special teams success this season.

Prediction: The Chargers have been in must-win mode for weeks now and this one looms as another example. One victory in their final two games would ensure they don’t slip to seventh from sixth in the playoff seedings. Two victories could vault them up to fifth. Chargers 24, Rams 21.