In a rematch of a game played two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Chargers head to the east coast to play the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. After winning that game 22-10, the Ravens are 2.5-point favorites over the Chargers with an over/under of 42 points.
Baltimore has had their backs up against the wall for most of the season after falling to 4-5 in early November. It was at that time that Lamar Jackson stepped in for an injured Joe Flacco, becoming the catalyst for the Ravens winning six of their last seven games and rising above the Steelers to win of the AFC North.
The Chargers, on the other hand, locked up a playoff spot weeks ago but couldn’t overcome the Chiefs at the top of the AFC West. Despite finishing the season 12-4 after an uneven 1-2 start, the Chargers had to settle for a wild-card spot. That means they will likely have to win three road games to reach the Super Bowl.
It’s on You, Partner!
For the Chargers, this game may come down to the play of Philip Rivers. Running back Melvin Gordon is expected to play, but he’s been banged up late in the season. He’s managed to play the last two weeks. However, Gordon has only gained 83 yards on 22 carries in those two games. He’ll also be facing a Baltimore defense that’s giving up just 3.7 yards per carry on the ground this season, so it could be tough sledding for Gordon and Austin Ekeler.
Obviously, Rivers is accustomed to carrying the Chargers on his back. But he’s been a little off late in the season. At the tail end of a brilliant season, Rivers has thrown six interceptions to just three touchdowns over his last three games. He was also held to just 181 passing yards against the Ravens two weeks ago. Moreover, Baltimore is giving up less than 18 points per game on the season, so it won’t be easy for Rivers and the Chargers to do much damage against them on the road.
You Know It’s Coming
Since Jackson took over at quarterback, the Ravens have altered their offensive scheme to fit his skillset. Baltimore isn’t trying to fool anyone; every team that plays them know that they want to run the ball. However, teams still haven’t been able to stop them. The issue is that Jackson is a threat to run the ball on virtually every play. If the defense focuses on stopping him, Gus Edwards can do damage and vice versa.
The Los Angeles defense has been rather unspectacular at stopping the run this season. Two weeks ago, Jackson, Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon combined for 159 rushing yards, allowing the Ravens to control the game with their rushing attack. No team the Ravens have played the last two months has had an answer for that running game. The Chargers have to hope that playing Baltimore twice in quick succession will provide some answers for them.
Two weeks ago, the Ravens out-gained the Chargers by more than 150 yards. Los Angeles also committed three turnovers. With the Ravens being at home for this game, it’s tough to envision the Chargers making a drastic turnaround. Bet on the Ravens winning and covering the spread against the Chargers on Sunday.