The Morning Column: December 22, 2021
The Rams once again look like Super Bowl contenders after beating the Seattle Seahawks in a rare Tuesday Night Football game at SoFi Stadium.
Good morning on a beautiful Wednesday 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. A little over two weeks ago, the Rams were in the midst of a three-game losing streak, two games behind the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West and basically three games back with Arizona holding head-to-head and divisional record tiebreakers.
Each one of the Rams’ losses got the national television spotlight. They got manhandled at home by the Tennessee Titans on Sunday Night Football, blown out by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football and outclassed by the Green Bay Packers in one of the highest rated NFL games this season. With the country watching their every move last month, the Rams went winless in November.
It would have been understandable to jump off the Rams’ Super Bowl bandwagon. After starting the season 7-1 and adding Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller to an already stacked team with their sights set on playing the Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium, the Rams had gone 0-3. During that stretch they also lost Robert Woods for the season to a torn ACL in practice. Maybe the Rams still had enough to sneak into the playoffs as a wild card team but they were a longshot at best to catch the Cardinals in the division and their Super Bowl prospects looked bleaker with each passing week.
But that was way back in early December when nobody knew what Omicron was and the thought of sports being momentarily shut down again seemed like a bad dram. It seems like forever ago now, right? After beating the Seattle Seahawks, 20-10, in a rare Tuesday Night Football game, the Rams are 10-4, tied with the suddenly reeling Cardinals atop the NFC West and tied for the second-best record in the league.
The rest of the Rams’ schedule won’t be easy. They have a short week to prepare for a road game against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, then they go on the road again to play the Baltimore Ravens and finish out the season against the 49ers, a team the Rams haven’t beaten since 2018 as Kyle Shanahan has beaten his old friend Sean McVay five straight times since becoming the 49ers head coach.
2. We’re 32 games into the NBA season and the Lakers are 16-16 after getting blown out by the Phoenix Suns, 108-90, on Tuesday. They’re a .500 team that will now be without Anthony Davis for the next four weeks as he rehabs from a sprained MCL. They have lost three straight going into Thursday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs and could fall below .500 for the first time in a month going into their Christmas Day game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Anyone thinking replacing Frank Vogel with David Fizdale as the head coach could make a difference this season has to have second thoughts after watching the Lakers recently. There’s no easy or quick fix to correct what’s ailing this disjointed Lakers squad. Things will likely get worse before they get better with Davis not only out for a month but already playing like a shell of himself this season. It’s not like Davis, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook were exactly setting the world on fire when they were on the court together. But that trio finding a way to play together is still the Lakers’ only chance of doing anything this season considering their supporting cast isn’t helping matters much either. Against the Suns, for example, Talen Horton-Tucker and Isaiah Thomas combined to go 2-of-24 from the field for just six points.
How bad are things looking for the Lakers right now? FiveThirtyEight, Basketball Reference and ESPN currently project the Lakers will finish the season below .500 and give them less than a 50% chance to make the playoffs.
3. I’m not ready to say there’s a curse with Staples Center becoming Crypto.com Arena this week but there’s a real chance the Lakers and Clippers could both be at or below .500 when they play their first game at the newly named arena and the Kings won’t be able to play their first game at their renamed home until next week at the earliest with the NHL pausing the season due to COVID-19. Not the most ideal start.
4. Two of the loudest and best Rams crowds I’ve heard over the past four years was the rescheduled Monday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum in 2018 and last night’s rescheduled Tuesday Night Football game against the Seahawks at SoFi Stadium. Los Angeles is a city most opposing fans circle on their calendar when their team’s schedule is released and it’s also a city that didn’t have an NFL team for 21 years so there are fans of every team here. I get the split crowds we often get for games. Las Vegas is dealing with the same issue. The unique thing about these two games was the last-minute scheduling change (Rams-Chiefs moving from Mexico City to Los Angeles and Rams-Seahawks moving from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday night) meant the crowds were largely locals rooting for the home team. Many in attendance at both games were also Rams fans going to their first games with tickets being more affordable with the late scheduling change.
5. The NBA announced that the Brooklyn Nets at Portland Trail Blazers game on Dec. 23 has been postponed because the Nets do not have the league-required eight available players to play the game. The status for the Lakers-Nets Christmas Day game may be in limbo if more players are forced to enter the league’s health and safety protocols with rising COVID-19 cases but that uncertainty hasn’t stopped fans from paying top dollar for tickets to see the game. The average price for the marquee matchup on Christmas Day is a record $780, according to TickPick. That’s 330% more than the previous most expensive Lakers-Nets game on record and it is currently the NBA’s most expensive regular season game.
6. Kedon Slovis officially announced on Tuesday that he would be transferring from USC to Pittsburgh. Slovis made the announcement in The Players Tribune, writing, “USC will always be a special place to me. But now it’s time for me to start a new chapter. For my next two years of eligibility, I’ll be playing quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh.” Two years ago, Clay Helton had to chose between JT Daniels and Kedon Slovis when picking USC’s quarterback of the future. Helton is now at Georgia Southern, Daniels is at Georgia and Slovis is at Pitt while Lincoln Riley is getting ready for his first season at USC. Crazy.
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. Los Angeles Clippers at Sacramento Kings – Bally Sports SoCal, NBA TV
9. Here are the “get in” prices for tickets locally on TickPick if you’re thinking about going to a pro sports game on Thursday.
San Antonio Spurs at Los Angeles Lakers – $72
10. On Tuesday’s The Arash Markazi Show, we talked about the Rams playing the Seattle Seahawks in a rare Tuesday night matchup and the NHL putting a pause on the season because of COVID-19.
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. Happy holidays! Talk to you on in 2022!