Column

Chargers get some help from NFL schedule maker

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 StubHub 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 just 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.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Get more of Bill Plaschke's work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke

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