- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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Each Friday we will update you on the four NFL teams most likely move to Los Angeles; ranking them in order of the likeliest to call L.A. home within the next few years.
1. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (7-7)
Last week: As usual the Chargers are finishing off the season strong and as usual it might not matter. San Diego is on a three-game winning streak, their longest since Oct. 9 after losing six games in a row. San Diego’s 34-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football was perhaps the first glimpse of the team some had picked before the season to make it to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Chargers it might be a case of too little, too late.
This week: San Diego will face the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve and try to keep their playoff hopes alive while preventing the Lions from clinching their first playoff berth since 1999, which they can do with a win. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has finally turned his season around and helped the Chargers outscore their last three opponents 109-38 with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions. Meanwhile running back Ryan Mathews has gained 453 of his 1,033 yards over the last four games and scored three touchdowns.
L.A. Story: Qualcomm Stadium is far from being a modern NFL stadium, in fact it's one of the three oldest in the league, and it’s a home the Chargers have been trying to ditch for the past decade but the Q did get a slight makeover recently. Qualcomm Inc. has renamed the stadium for 10 days to "Snapdragon Stadium" until Dec. 28 to bring more attention to the company's chips for its mobile devices. Considering how the Chargers played at Snapdragon last week, the team may want to keep the name next season. If they don’t get an agreement on a new stadium by then though, the Chargers may be heading to Los Angeles in 2013.
2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-11)
Last week: The Vikings’ 42-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints was Minnesota’s sixth straight loss and dropped them to 2-12, their worst record since 1962 when the team went 2-11-1. Minnesota actually kept it close with two minutes left in the second quarter, only trailing 14-13, before the Saints scored 28 unanswered points. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned after missing the last three games because of a high ankle sprain and rushed for 60 yards in 10 carries.
This week: Minnesota will play the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in a game their fans hope they don’t win. The Vikings are now in a three-way tie for the No. 1 overall pick in next year's NFL draft and the chance to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. While the other two teams in the running, the Colts and Rams, have their franchise quarterbacks in Peyton Manning and Sam Bradford, the Vikings are salivating at the chance to draft Luck and reshape their franchise. If they are still going to remain in the hunt, however, they have to make sure their longest losing streak since 1984 continues.
L.A. Story: Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch's resignation amid allegations of an “inappropriate relationship” with a Senate staffer has momentarily derailed talks of a new Vikings stadium. Koch and her former chief aide, Michael Brodkorb were strong advocates for a new stadium but there is uncertainty about whether or not a new majority leader will feel the same way. Gov. Mark Dayton is still in favor of getting a stadium deal done but Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers doesn’t seem as interested, making the majority leader replacement that much more critical to the future of the Vikings in Minnesota.
3. OAKLAND RAIDERS (7-7)
Last week: Oakland suffered its third straight loss, squandering a 27-14 lead against the Detroit Lions at home with five minutes left. The loss was the Raiders’ third straight defeat after they had previously won three straight to take control of the AFC West. Now the Raiders must win their last two games and get some help from the Denver Broncos if they want to win the division and finish above .500 for the first time since 2002.
This week: The Raiders now travel to Arrowhead Stadium to play the Kansas Chiefs, who are coming off their upset win over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers. As bad as the Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos have looked at times this season, with just two weeks left in the regular season, all four teams still have a chance to win the division and host a playoff game. Perhaps the biggest difference for the Raiders will have to be running back Michael Bush, who has been held to an average of 60.5 yards in the past four games after a four-game stretch where he was averaging 115.3 yards.
L.A. Story: The San Jose Mercury News reported this week that “the Raiders apparently have made no firm plans for a new stadium or new location in the months since the passing of Al Davis, and there were no plans at all before he died.” There had been some speculation that the team would try to move into a new Santa Clara stadium with the 49ers, but if the 49ers can finance their stadium on their own and have it ready for the 2014 season, they won’t need the Raiders’ help and likely wouldn’t welcome their company as tenant. If the Raiders are unable to find a solution in the Bay Area and Mark Davis is interested in selling the team, they could be in line for a move back to Los Angeles in 2013.
4. ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-12)
Last week: The Rams lost their fifth straight game, 20-13, to the Cincinnati Bengals. Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens was forced to start in place of Sam Bradford, who missed his fourth start of the season with an ankle injury, and backup A.J. Feeley, who missed his second straight game with a broken thumb. Clemens was 25 for 36 for 229 yards and a touchdown while running back Steven Jackson had 143 combined yards, rushing and receiving.
This week: St. Louis travels to play the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in a game the Steelers need to win and the Rams don’t want to win. The Rams are in a three-way tie for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and while they might be content with Bradford, that top pick will be the most valuable in recent memory and could fetch them at least two No. 1 picks if they wanted to trade it. When you’re as bad as the Rams have been recently, (10-36 under Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo) you could use all the No. 1 picks you can get.
L.A. Story: Former NFL executive and current CBS Sports analyst Charley Casserly said this week that he believes there will likely be two NFL teams in Los Angeles, one from the AFC and one from the NFC, with the St. Louis Rams making the most sense to be the NFC team. “The owner in St. Louis, Stan Kroenke, he’ll make a decision that he feels is best for the franchise along with the NFL,” Casserly said. “Obviously there’s a lease that expires within St. Louis with some conditions about the stadium, the shape of the stadium compared to other stadiums, so there’s a lot of unanswered questions.”