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Friday, December 16, 2011
NFL@LA Four Corners

By Arash Markazi

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 (6-7)

Last week:
The Chargers have their first winning streak (two games) since winning three straight from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9 following their 37-10 win over the Buffalo Bills. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers continued his resurgence, completing 24 of 32 passes for 240 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Chargers running back Ryan Mathews also had a big day on the ground, rushing for 114 yards on 20 carries.

This week:
San Diego hosts its last home game of the season against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. While the Ravens are in position to finish with the best record in the AFC, the Chargers simply want to finish the season strong and be 9-7 at year’s end, which would give them an outside shot at winning the AFC West if Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos ever lost a game.

L.A. Story: As we’ve been saying for the past year this will not be the last season for the Chargers in San Diego. Next year? Well that's another story. It’s a feeling that was essentially echoed by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week who said that Los Angeles “is a viable market in the sense that we know there are millions of fans in that market who want to see football return there but we want it to return in a successful way, and that requires a stadium. I don't think we'll be in a position to make that decision by 2012, but we'll continue to work with the different alternatives in Los Angeles and hope that we get a solution that will work.”

Los Angeles will not be in a position to break ground on a stadium until the spring of 2012, which is too late for a team to move. A relocation notice by a team would have to be made in writing to the commissioner by Feb. 15 so the most likely date for the NFL’s return to Los Angeles continues to be February 2013. This fact, by the way, is not lost on all the parties involved despite what they might say otherwise publicity.
2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2-11)

Last week:
The Vikings’ 34-28 loss to the Detroit Lions was Minnesota’s fifth straight loss and dropped them to 2-11, their worst record since 1962. Minnesota fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter and was never able to make a game of it. The Vikings were able to run for 269 combined yards without All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson in the lineup but the Vikings’ six turners, including three interceptions by quarterback Christian Ponder, were impossible to overcome.

This week:
Minnesota will face the New Orleans Saints at the Metrodome this week in what will be the team’s penultimate game in the stadium before their lease runs out. Peterson is expected back in the lineup back after missing the past three weeks while recovering from a high ankle sprain. Ponder is expected to start the game as well if he’s healthy despite the inspired play of backup quarterback Joe Webb, who looked good in relief of Ponder last week, throwing for 84 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.

L.A. Story:
While Minneapolis city leaders try to keep the Vikings in Minneapolis, Vikings executive Lester Bagley reaffirmed the team's commitment to a stadium in Arden Hills this week. While acknowledging that Minneapolis has come on strong he labeled them as “a late entrant to the derby” and said the team’s best hope for stadium rested in Ramsey County. The NFL also announced a revised stadium loan program this week that could provide up to $200 million toward a Minnesota Vikings stadium and make up almost half of the team’s $425 million contribution for a proposed $1.1 billion stadium. That plan, however, is still awaiting state and local approval.

3. OAKLAND RAIDERS (7-5)

Last week:
Oakland suffered its second loss in a row on the road in humiliating fashion as the Raiders lost to the Green Bay Packers 46-16. The Raiders have lost their last two games by a combined score of 80-30, with Oakland’s 30 points coming late in the second half when the games had already been decided. Green Bay took a 34-0 lead in the third quarter, just as Miami had the week before, and Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer threw four interceptions in the loss.

This week:
The Raiders welcome the Detroit Lions to Oakland this week as they try to avoid their first three-game losing streak of the season. Detroit has lost five of eight since winning five straight to start the season and welcome back much-maligned defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh from suspension this week. The Raiders will need to shore up their own defense if they’re going to beat the Lions. Oakland has given up 517 rushing yards the last three weeks and has given up at least 31 points five times this season.

L.A. Story:
The San Francisco 49ers and Santa Clara have not only lined up $850 million in loans for the construction of a new stadium but the Santa Clara Stadium Authority voted unanimously to approve the loans this week along with a 40-year lease agreement between the team and the city. The only question now for the $1 billion stadium, which will break ground next year, is if the Raiders move into it as well. If they do, the NFL will earmark close to $400 million for the project as they would like the new Bay Area stadium to house both Bay Area teams, which have been trying for the past decade to get a new home.

4. ST. LOUIS RAMS (2-11)

Last week:
The Rams lost their fourth straight game, 30-13, to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, still recovering from sprained left ankle, looked like he had no business being on the field, completing 12 of 29 passes for 193 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Rams running back Stephen Jackson was only able to get 63 yards on 20 carries in the losing effort.

This week:
St. Louis welcomes the Cincinnati Bengals this week and may or may not have Bradford under center. If Bradford is unable to go, Kellen Clemens, who was just signed last week, would likely start as backup A.J. Feeley recovers from a broken thumb. St. Louis has been outscored 103-40 during its current four-game losing streak.

L.A. Story: Rams hall-of-famer Jack Youngblood will be back in Los Angeles on Sunday to watch the Rams-Bengals game with Los Angeles Rams fans at the Fiesta Hall in Whittier. He will be there with former Ram Lee Roy Irvin and some of his other teammates reminiscing about the days the Rams actually won more than two games in a season.