The Morning Column: January 3, 2022
Super Bowl LVI will take place at SoFi Stadium and entering the final week of the NFL regular season, the Rams and Chargers are still very much in the mix to be playing a home game on 'Super Sunday.'
Good morning on a beautiful Monday and welcome to The Morning Column. Please subscribe if you haven’t done so. It will be delivered to you every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. To avoid the email ending up in your spam folder, please add email@example.com to your contacts. You can also email me there as well. I would love to hear from you.
1. Super Bowl LVI will take place Feb. 13 at SoFi Stadium and entering the final week of the NFL regular season, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers are still very much in the mix to be playing a home game on Super Sunday.
Two of the most highly anticipated games on the final Sunday of the season will be taking place four hours and 270 miles apart in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
At 1:25 p.m. PT at SoFi Stadium the Rams will play the San Francisco 49ers. If the Rams win, they will clinch the NFC West and the No. 2 seed in the conference. If the 49ers win, they will clinch a playoff berth. The 49ers have beaten the Rams five straight times and blew them out 31-10 on Monday Night Football in their last meeting on Nov. 15.
At 5:20 p.m. PT at Allegiant Stadium in the last game of the regular season, the Chargers will play the Las Vegas Raiders for a playoff berth. Both teams are 9-7 and the last time they met in the playoffs was in 1981. The final Sunday Night Football game of the regular season will essentially serve as their first playoff meeting in 41 years.
The Rams enter their final regular season game as six-point favorites over the 49ers while the Chargers open as three-point favorites over the Raiders.
2. So what are the odds that the Rams or Chargers become the second team in Super Bowl history (and the second team in as many years) to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium?
They odds are obviously better for the Rams than the Chargers but the sportsbooks currently like the Green Bay Packers to face the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of the first Super Bowl, which took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 15, 1967. The Chiefs would open as slight favorites in that game. Most sportsbooks also like the Packers to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game with the Chiefs beating the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game.
Here are the latest Super Bowl odds going into this Sunday’s games:
Kansas City Chiefs: +400
Green Bay Packers: +450
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: +600
Buffalo Bills: +850
Los Angeles Rams: +900
While the Rams are one of the top five Super Bowl favorites, the Chargers are longshots at +5,000.
3. After the Rams’ 20-19 comeback win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, there was a lot of talk about Matthew Stafford’s continued struggles, especially early in games. He has thrown 15 interceptions so far, his most in a season since 2018, and has thrown four pick-sixes, tying a Rams franchise record. He has also turned the ball over at least twice five times this season. Against the Ravens, he had two interceptions and a fumble, which led to the Rams trailing 10-0 early and 16-7 in the fourth quarter.
The popular take when Stafford struggles is that the Rams could have just kept Jared Goff if they wanted a quarterback who was going to throw 15 interceptions and four pick-sixes. They didn’t have to trade away Goff, two first round picks and a third-round pick to get someone else to do that. But Stafford has also shown over the past two weeks in overcoming his early struggles in multi-turnover games and during the Rams’ current five-game winning streak that he isn’t Goff. He’s obviously better than Goff and his highwater mark if he can put together a clean game is an MVP caliber quarterback capable of leading the Rams to a Super Bowl.
4. Cooper Kupp will put the final touches on one of the greatest seasons by a wide receiver in NFL history on Sunday. Only three players since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 have led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns – Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith (2005). Kupp will no doubt add his name to that list on Sunday. Kupp’s 1,829 receiving yards this season are already a franchise record and he has had 12 consecutive games with at least 90 receiving yards, which is the longest streak in the NFL since 1950.
5. The Lakers have won back-to-back games and three of their last four games and are back to .500 after a 108-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. The turnaround has come during a stretch where the Lakers have started LeBron James, who just turned 37 years old, at center. The Lakers are still playing without Anthony Davis, who could possibly return at the end of the month, which is why their current projections on FiveThirtyEight, Basketball Reference and ESPN are a bit confusing.
Each site has the Lakers finishing below .500 and each gives them less than a 50% chance to even make the playoffs. I’m not saying the Lakers are still a championship contender (far from it, obviously) but they are just one game back of the No. 5 seed. The fifth seed in the Western Conference will likely be around .500 this season and I don’t think it’s a stretch to predict the Lakers with James, Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard will figure out a way to finish the season with 40-42 wins and be the fifth or sixth seed.
6. After last year’s Rose Bowl Game was moved to Texas and played in front of about 18,000 fans at AT&T Stadium, it was great to see “The Granddaddy of Them All” return home. There’s nothing better than watching sun setting on the San Gabriel Mountains on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl and this year’s game didn’t disappoint. Ohio State came back to beat Utah, 48-45, in a classic game that saw C.J. Stroud pass for a record 573 yards and six touchdowns and Jaxson Smith-Njigba finish with 347 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.
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’.
7:00 p.m. Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers – Bally Sports SoCal
9. Here are the “get in” prices for tickets locally on TickPick if you’re thinking about going to a pro sports game today.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers – $6
10. On Friday’s The Arash Markazi Show, we closed out 2021 by playing our interview with Kings president Luc Robitaille and one of the last interviews with Kobe Bryant.
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.
And please click below to subscribe to The Morning Column at Substack. Please also consider supporting my colleagues at Substack (and former colleagues at ESPN and SI): Marc Stein, Henry Abbott, Chad Ford and Ethan Sherwood Strauss on the NBA, Molly Knight and Joe Posnanski on MLB, Ariel Helwani on MMA, Dan Rafael on boxing, Grant Wahl and Leander Schaerlaeckens on soccer and Chris Peters on the NHL.
That’s it for today. Talk to you on Wednesday.