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Los Angeles Chargers and Rams battle for LA this Sunday, live on Sky Sports

Sky Sports | Updated: 2018-09-22 03:00:42

Big city. Big stars. Who rules Los Angeles?

At 9.05pm on Sunday, the Los Angeles Chargers travel all the way... across the city to face the Los Angeles Rams. It’s the first time two LA teams have faced off since November 13, 1994, when the Raiders defeated the Rams at Anaheim Stadium.

The last time these two franchises met, in 2014, the then-San Diego Chargers came up with a last-minute interception to seal a 27-24 victory over the then-St Louis Rams.

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Then, just as now, Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen were leading the way for the Chargers, but the Rams offense consisted of Shaun Hill, Tre Mason and Stedman Bailey. A lot has changed since then.

We run you through the past and present of the two Los Angeles franchises ahead of their battle for city bragging rights...

A brief history

Despite being best known as the San Diego Chargers - they were there from 1961 until last season - the franchise was actually established in Los Angeles, spending a grand total of one year there.

The team has experienced spells of success, most recently in the mid-2000s with Drew Brees - now with the New Orleans Saints - and then a young Philip Rivers leading the offense, but they remain one of the NFL teams without a Vince Lombardi Trophy to their name. Their only Super Bowl visit in the 1994-95 season ended with a 49-26 shellacking from the San Francisco 49ers.

The Rams, on the other hand, are the only franchise to have won championships while representing three different cities - Cleveland in 1945, Los Angeles in 1951 and a Super Bowl success in St. Louis in 1999.

With Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner at the helm and Marshall Faulk in the backfield, they had ‘the Greatest Show on Turf’ - an explosive offense that led them to win a Super Bowl and get close to another two years later before a certain Tom Brady appeared on the scene to steal it away. But, before current head coach Sean McVay came along, the Rams had endured a barren spell since, not experiencing a winning season since 2003.

Coaching

Sticking with coaching, pitting his wits against McVay is Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn. Lynn learned his trade under Rex Ryan, first with the New York Jets and then the Buffalo Bills. It was there - after offensive coordinator Greg Roman was fired - that Lynn began to drum up strong head coaching interest around the league.

He eventually became interim head coach when Ryan himself was let go, and joined the newly relocated Chargers in January 2017. While McVay was drawing all the plaudits for turning his Rams around from a 4-12 record to 11-5 and a playoff spot last season, Lynn led his group to an improvement too. They were 9-7 last season after going 5-11 in 2016, and only missed out on the postseason by one spot.

Behind him, the 49-year-old has a wealth of experience from offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who was in Seattle for the formation of the famous 'Legion of Boom' defense.

As for the Rams, their offense is the envy of the league, thanks in large part to the coaching of McVay - the youngest ever head coach hired in the league when he took over at just 30 years of age last season. He seems to have play-calling and design wisdom beyond his years and has elevated his play-makers to an elite level.

Wade Phillips, who recently helped a dominant Denver defense win a Super Bowl - despite a glaring lack of offense - has brought his scheme and an attitude to LA. Before he joined, the Rams allowed 24.6 points per game in 2016. Last year, it dropped to 20.6. So far this season, this D has allowed just 13 points in two games. The next best team (Washington) has allowed 27.

Offense

Based purely on the quarterbacks, it feels like these two teams are on the opposite sides of the spectrum. While Philip Rivers - at 36 years old - is in the twilight of his career, Jared Goff (23) is in only his third year and continues to ascend following struggles in his rookie season.

However, the offenses are in many ways quite similar. Both go through first-round running backs from the 2015 class - Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley - whose career arcs have aligned after fluctuating first and second years.

The two backs were picked five spots apart in that class - Gurley at 10 and Gordon at 15 and while the former hit the ground running, taking the Offensive Rookie of the Year title, the latter ended with a touchdown-less season and question marks about his pro potential. The script flipped in 2016, with Gordon finding the end zone 12 times while Gurley halved that total and struggled on the ground.

The next year brought career highs in rushing and receiving yards for both players, as they formed an integral part of what each offense aimed to do. Expect them to both feature heavily on Sunday with each player coming off three-touchdown outings last week.

The third members of each team's skill-position trios are a pair of wideouts - Keenan Allen for the Chargers, Brandin Cooks for the Rams. Allen is a chain-mover: he caught 102 balls last year, and started his career with over 70 catches in each of his first two. In 2015, in just eight games, he caught 67 passes. He is a true go-to target hog.

Cooks, now with his third team in five years, has managed three straight campaigns with over 65 catches and 1,000 yards, but he excels with speed. The true definition of a deep threat, Cooks is averaging 20.5 yards per reception so far in 2018 (Allen is down at 12.5).

Defense

Both teams too have difference-makers on the defensive side of the ball, with some monsters on the defensive line and ball-hawks in the secondary.

The Chargers were third in points per game allowed in 2017 (17.0), behind only the stellar Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars units and, according to PFF, had two of the top five best-graded pass rushers in the NFL in 2017. Joey Bosa is out due to injury, but Melvin Ingram is still as destructive as ever, registering 1.5 sacks against the Bills.

On the back end, Casey Hayward is one of the more pure cover corners in the league, while rookie safety Derwin James is quickly developing into one of the most electrifying downhill athletes at the position. James is the first rookie defensive back since 1999 to record a sack in each of his first two games.

The Rams, meanwhile, added monster firepower to their D in the offseason, pairing 2017 defensive player of the year Aaron Donald with new arrival Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line, and strengthening their secondary with Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

Phillips' coaching formula has worked so far, and they've managed four interceptions - albeit against Derek Carr and Sam Bradford. Rivers and company provide the first real test for the supremely talented unit.

Tune in to Sky Sports Action at 9.05pm on Sunday to see which team will come out on top.

Every Sunday, Sky Sports is your home of the NFL in the UK, with three live games and Redzone and you can join in the conversation by making sure you follow us @SkySportsNFL for behind-the-scenes coverage, live fixture announcements and much more.

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