The 2018 NFL season kicks off on Thursday night as the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles will raise their championship banner to the rafters at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly and welcome the 2016 NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons to town for the first regular season game of the year.
While there’s plenty of buzz about an Eagles repeat, here in Los Angeles the two hometown teams are making their own strong cases for postseason glory.
The Rams, who led the league in scoring with almost 30 points per game last year but came up short in the divisional round of the playoffs against the Falcons, begin their season on Monday night in the East Bay against the Oakland Raiders and will look to literally hit the ground running with their offense centered around star tailback Todd Gurley, who won the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year Award last year.
The Rams also made key additions to its wide receiving corps, defensive line, and secondary during the offseason, and now that All-Pro interior lineman and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald is finally signed to a long-term deal after two years of back-and-forth, both the team and fans can focus on proving right those who believe the Rams are a Super Bowl-caliber team this year.
Meanwhile, Chargers fans are getting charged up for Sunday as the Bolts are home at the StubHub Center to take on their AFC West rival, the Kansas City Chiefs, who won that division last year. Many believe the Chargers were only a kicker away from being a playoff team last year, as they lost three out of their first four games by three points or less and all on last-minute plays. This year, the Chargers begin the season with a veteran kicker as well as a high-octane offense led by quarterback Phillip Rivers, running back Melvin Gordon, and wide receiver Keennan Allen. There’s also lots of talk around the Bolts’ first round draft pick, safety Derwin James from Florida State. They had a significantly quieter offseason, however, as their biggest signing three-time Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey to a two year deal to help shore up an offensive line that has struggled with injuries.
Larry will chat with Take Two host and Charger fan A Martinez as well as L.A. Times Rams’ beat writer Gary Klein and highlight the big story lines and players to watch on each squad this year.
Gary Klein, sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who covers the Rams
A Martinez, host of KPCC’s Take Two