The Morning Column: January 10, 2022
The Rams are a good team, they’re a playoff team, they’re a contending team but they don’t look and feel like a championship team heading into the playoffs.
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1. The Rams won the NFC West for the third time in the past five years Sunday and are going to the playoffs for the fourth time in Sean McVay’s five seasons in Los Angeles. The Rams have had a winning record every year under McVay and have been a perennial championship contender during his tenure; advancing to the Super Bowl just three years ago.
So why does this feel more like the beginning of the end rather than the start of a Super Bowl journey that will end with a game at SoFi Stadium next month?
The Rams didn’t need to beat the 49ers to win the division and advance to the playoffs on Sunday but they needed to beat them to prove they were Super Bowl contenders. They needed to beat them after losing the last five meetings against the 49ers to show this wasn’t the same team. They needed to beat them not only to prove something to their critics but to prove something to themselves.
In the end, they blew it. They blew a 17-0 lead with a couple seconds left before halftime. They blew a 24-17 lead with less than 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter. And they finally blew the game in overtime, giving McVay his first loss in 46 games when leading at the half.
The Rams will be favored to beat the Arizona Cardinals in their wild card game at SoFi Stadium on Monday despite the Cardinals being 8-1 on the road (the Rams are 5-3 at home) and the Cardinals dominating the Rams at SoFi in October but it doesn’t feel like this season will end in a home game at Super Bowl LVI. The Rams are a good team, they’re a playoff team, they’re a contending team but they don’t look and feel like a championship team heading into the playoffs.
2. The Chargers’ hopes of playing in the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium died Sunday as many dreams do in the Las Vegas desert. The Chargers finished the season by losing three of their last four games and were eliminated from the playoffs when they lost to the Raiders, 35-32, in overtime. Brandon Staley has gotten a lot of heat this season for his over aggressiveness and routinely going for it on fourth down but Staley’s decision to call a late time out was easily his worst decision on Sunday.
The Raiders and Chargers would have both advanced to the playoffs with a tie and that seemed like the plan in the final seconds of the Raiders’ last drive. The Raiders were seemingly running out the clock and the Chargers weren’t calling a time out and then with 38 seconds left, Staley inexplicably called a time out, which multiple Raiders players said after the game changed their mindset. The Raiders picked up the first down on the next play and kicked the game-winning field goal to eliminate the Chargers. There’s nothing wrong with being aggressive but Staley has one of the best quarterbacks and one of the most talented teams in the league and he needs to realize sometimes the best thing he can do is just get out there way.
3. We’re officially halfway through the NBA season and the Lakers are 21-20 while the Clippers are 20-21. Both teams are in the 7-10-seed play-in bracket but also just 2-3 games back of the No. 5 seed. The Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks, 106-93, on Sunday and are doing their best to keep their head above water and stay in the playoff hunt without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Meanwhile, the Lakers’ four-game winning streak was snapped against the Memphis Grizzlies, 127-119. The Lakers actually had won five of their last six games since Christmas Day but they have lost twice to the Grizzlies. The Lakers are hoping they can finish the season as the No. 5 seed and out of the play-in tournament but they will likely be one-and-done in the postseason if they have to play the Grizzlies, Memphis has beaten the Lakers in their last three meetings.
4. There usually aren’t many surprises on “Black Monday.” Most of the coaches who are fired on the first Monday after the NFL regular season know they have coached their last game long before they are officially told but the Miami Dolphins firing Brian Flores makes zero sense. Flores has won eight of his last nine games and beat the New England Patriots on Sunday. Flores is 4-2 against Bill Belichick and according to ESPN Stats and Information, he “has the best record of any coach against the Belichick-era Patriots since 2000.” If an NFL team with an opening is smart, Flores should be the first coach to get fired and hired on “Black Monday.”
5. The College Football Playoff National Championship game will be played tonight at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis is an incredible big event city but it has been hovering around 10 degrees this week in the city, which is why this game and so many big events will be held in Los Angeles and Las Vegas over the next seven years. Here’s a list of the major sports event confirmed for Los Angeles and Las Vegas through 2028.
2022: Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, NFL Draft, MLB All-Star Game, NHL All-Star Game
2023: CFP National Title Game, U.S. Open (Golf), WrestleMania
2024: Super Bowl
2025: CFP National Title Game
2026: World Cup
2028: Summer Olympics
6. I wrote this on Instagram this weekend after seeing the award named after my friend and former colleague, Edward Aschoff, in Indianapolis before the national championship game.
The last two years often don’t seem real. It still feels like a bad dream I hope I’ll wake up from one day but that day never comes. For many it began with the start of the pandemic but for me it began a couple months earlier with the passing of my friend Edward Aschoff on his birthday, Christmas Eve. He had just turned 34 years old when he died from undetected non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same form of cancer I had twice. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about him – whether it’s watching Godzilla, going to an Anaheim Ducks game or walking past the bar he helped me escape from one night after I nearly caused a mini riot (long story). Last night I saw the Rising Star Award that was named after him. It was perfect. The day after he passed, I wrote, “he always made it a point to compliment a young reporter for a good question or a good story. He never forgot he was that young reporter not too long ago and cherished the opportunity to help someone realize their dreams.” I know he would have loved that an award with his name on it was given to a young reporter he would have no doubt complimented and helped himself.
7. Here are some odds if you’re thinking about placing a wager today brought to you by Circa Sports.
8. Here’s the local pro sports schedule today brought to you by Yaamava’.
7:30 p.m. New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings – Bally Sports West
9. Here are the “get in” prices for tickets locally on TickPick if you’re thinking about going to a pro sports game today.
New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings – $14
10. On Friday’s The Arash Markazi Show, we talked about the Rams and Chargers preparing for a big finish to the regular season and Kawhi Leonard possibly coming back this season.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on The Mightier 1090 in Southern California following The Rich Eisen Show and on 98.5 The Fan in Las Vegas following The Jim Rome Show. The Mightier 1090 has one of the strongest radio signals in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies” and 98.5 The Fan is the home of college football and the Los Angeles Chargers in Las Vegas. You can listen to The Mightier 1090 anywhere with your free TuneIn app or ask your smart speaker to “Play The Mightier 1090.” You can listen to 98.5 The Fan anywhere with your free Audacy app or ask your smart speaker to “Play The Fan Las Vegas.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and the BLEAV Podcast Network.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you on Wednesday.