On Monday night, the Los Angeles Rams play their first official regular season game in over two decades.
The LA Rams are back, and their first test is a historical Northern California and Southern California rivalry game against the San Francisco 49ers. The event will be nationally televised and draw further interest because San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is staging a peaceful protest by sitting down during the national anthem.
Since Kaepernick started his protests, nearly everyone has an opinion on the topic. Other players have taken a knee or spoken out in support, while several analysts and media members have taken to their microphones and typewriters to condemn the quarterback.
Kaepernick is not projected to start, but his protest should dominate talk at the start of the game.
The Niners start Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, who is a 26-year-old passer entering his sixth season in the NFL. Gabbert featured in eight games a season ago, and the 49ers went 3-5 over that stretch. Torrey Smith is San Francisco's top wide-receiver threat, as the speedy wide-out played all 16 games a season ago. Smith averaged 20.1 yards per reception with four touchdowns on the year.
Carlos Hyde is the 49ers' leading rusher, and the 49ers' second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft averages 4.1 yards per carry for his career.
For the Rams, Case Keenum held onto his starting spot over no. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft Jared Goff. Goff struggled to reach the required level of proficiency and dropped to third in the pecking order, behind Sean Mannion, who enters his third season as a professional out of Oregon State.
Keenum's top wide-out targets are speedster Tavon Austin, who is starting his fifth year in the league, and taller target Kenny Britt, who enters his ninth season. Britt led the team with 681 receiving yards and an average of 18.9 yards per reception during the 2015 NFL season.
Austin led the team with 52 receptions and five receiving touchdowns. Austin is a bit more versatile, so expect him to line up in the back field from time to time. He averaged 8.3 yards per carry a season ago, which is impressive considering Austin had the third most carries on the team in 2015. Austin scored four touchdowns as a rusher.
However, the Rams' primary rusher is still Todd Gurley. The 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015 played 13 games, scored 10 touchdowns and crossed 1,000 rushing yards on the season. Gurley is a dynamic runner, and the 22-year-old averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his rookie season.
Gurley and the Rams kick-off against Gabbert and the 49ers in Santa Clara at 7:20 p.m. Pacific Time.