NFL ap­pears to give the Charg­ers a big edge when it comes to sched­ule

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - BILL PLASCHKE

Since mov­ing to town three months ago, the Charg­ers have been in des­per­ate need of a vis­i­bil­ity push.

The NFL just gave them one, shov­ing them right over the Rams.

In re­leas­ing its 2017 sched­ule Thurs­day, the league pushed the Charg­ers for­ward into the spot­light while leav­ing the Rams hang­ing on the edge of the shad­ows.

The Charg­ers got the cool dates. The Rams got the odd dates.

The Charg­ers got New Year’s Eve against the Raiders, Thanks­giv­ing in Dal­las, and a Stub Hub de­but against the play­off team from Mi­ami.

The Rams got Sun­day in Lon­don, Thurs­day in traf­fic in Santa Clara, and three games wal­low­ing in a mess left by USC.

The Rams were here first, and the Rams have more fans, but they blew lots of good­will by win­ning only four times in 16 at­tempts, and the league now seems de­ter­mined to give the Charg­ers a chance to equal their buzz.

Be­gin with the end, of both the cal­en­dar and per­haps South­ern Cal­i­for­nia sports civ­i­liza­tion as we know it.

Yes, on New Year’s Eve, the Raiders will visit the Charg­ers at the StubHub Cen­ter.

Se­ri­ously. The NFL has sched­uled what might be its most com­bustible game on the year’s most com­bustible day in the league’s most cramped lo­ca­tion.

It will be Times Square squared. It will give new mean­ing to “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” The game be­gins at 1:25 p.m., but good luck get­ting Raiders fans out of the park­ing lot be­fore 2018.

Imag­ine the stakes! Imag­ine the sen­ti­ments! Imag­ine the se­cu­rity bill!

If the Charg­ers strug­gle in their first sea­son while oc­cu­py­ing an L.A. ad­dress that many fans be­lieve should be­long to the Raiders, a loss here will bury them.

But if the Charg­ers have a de­cent de­but sea­son and are fight­ing for a spot in the playoffs, a win here would at least tem­po­rar­ily af­firm their ex­is­tence.

Ei­ther way, the Charg­ers will own the town at the end of a sched­ule in which the NFL seem­ingly pur­posely de­signed to help them es­tab­lish them­selves.

A Los Angeles team play­ing in Dal­las on Thanks­giv­ing? That would be the Charg­ers. A Los Angeles team open­ing its home sched­ule with con­sec­u­tive games against 2016 play­off teams? That’s the Charg­ers again, host­ing Mi­ami and Kansas City in the mid­dle of Septem­ber.

Do you want to hear some­thing re­ally dumb? The league sched­uled the Rams and Charg­ers to play on the same day, at the same time, three times! In­stead of at­tempt­ing to build this mar­ket as a two-team town, they are forc­ing fans to make a hard choice.

It should be no sur­prise by now that two of those three dou­ble dates fa­vor the Charg­ers.

On Sept. 17, would you rather watch the Charg­ers play their in­au­gu­ral Los Angeles game against the Dol­phins, or the Rams host that ter­ri­bly named team from Wash­ing­ton?

And on New Year’s Eve, while the Charg­ers and Raiders are at­tract­ing ev­ery ounce of at­ten­tion in Car­son, the Rams will host the — ugh — San Fran­cisco 49ers.

The third date, Dec. 10, fa­vors the Rams, who host the Philadel­phia Ea­gles in a pos­si­ble duel of last year’s top quar­ter­back draft picks, Jared Goff and Car­son Wentz. Mean­while, in Car­son, the Charg­ers host that team from Wash­ing­ton and, no, you’re not go­ing to read their racist nickname in this col­umn on ei­ther of their week­end vis­its.

The Charg­ers even win the bat­tle of ex­otic dates, with a Mon­day night game to open the sea­son in Den­ver on Sept. 11 and a Sat­ur­day night game in Kansas City on Dec. 16.

The Rams have one night game, and it’s on the ab­so­lute worst game-play­ing day of the week, a day that should be elim­i­nated from the NFL cal­en­dar for rea­sons of player safety and the fact that the games ab­so­lutely stink. Yes, they play on a Thurs­day night, Sept. 21, in Santa Clara against the 49ers.

There’s prob­a­bly only one other time and place where NFL games are more rou­tinely ig­nored than Thurs­day night. That’s on Sun­days in Lon­don. And of course the Rams are do­ing one of those again, against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 22 at 10 a.m. Pa­cific time.

The Rams will be hurt not only by the NFL, but also by USC, which shares the Coli­seum and wrecks the field and makes it very messy for the Rams when they play on con­sec­u­tive days.

Only twice last year did this hap­pen, and both times the field was a mess. This year it hap­pens three times in the first five weeks.

USC plays Stan­ford on Sept. 9, Texas on Sept. 16, and Ore­gon State on Oct. 7.

The Rams be­gin their sea­son host­ing Indianapolis on Sept. 10, then Wash­ing­ton on Sept. 17, and Seattle on Oct. 8.

The Charg­ers, mean­while, don’t have to worry about USC steal­ing any thun­der, not even dur­ing their New Year’s Eve fi­nale. You see, this sea­son, the CFP semi­fi­nals, in­clud­ing the Rose Bowl game, have been moved to New Year’s Day.

That will give every­one, re­gard­less of the color of their face paint, a chance to cel­e­brate Los Angeles’ true No. 1 foot­ball team.

Robert Gauthier Los Angeles Times

JARED GOFF DIDN’T get a win in any of his seven starts with the Rams as a rookie last sea­son, but he’ll be back at it at the Coli­seum in the fall, in­clud­ing a Dec. 10 matchup against the Philadel­phia Ea­gles and their sec­ond-year quar­ter­back, Car­son Wentz.

Alex Gal­lardo Associated Press

THE CHARG­ERS’ Kyle Emanuel (51) bat­tles Oakland tight end My­chal Rivera last sea­son in San Diego. The teams will meet in Car­son to end the reg­u­lar sea­son on New Year’s Eve.

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