West Coast Road Trip, Ravens vs Chargers AFC Showdown
The Ravens travel to Los Angeles on short rest, and what will likely be the game of the week for the NFL Saturday double-header. The Chargers have been well rested since their Thursday night defeat of the Chiefs in Kansas City on December 13th.
In the words of the Ravens new mantra, “GOOD!”
The Ravens can take control of the AFC North with a win, a Steelers loss in New Orleans but are also fighting to win out for the season. The Steelers currently have a half game lead over the Ravens and will have their hands full with Drew Brees and the Saints on the road in New Orleans Sunday.
The Ravens offense will matchup against a top 10 defense in the Chargers and Lamar Jackson will definitely be pressured facing Joey Bosa and company. The Chargers defense is balanced and will present a much tougher challenge with defensive ends and linebackers who can chase Jackson down on the outside. The Ravens are most likely going to keep the run game going until proven otherwise, but this would be the game where Lamar Jackson will need to connect on deep throws downfield and work on building a lead early, before they get forced to play from behind.
The Chargers defense is allowing 103.7 rush yards per game and allowing 21.3 points per game which sets up nicely for the Ravens and the duo of Gus Edwards and a very physical Ken Dixon. The Ravens have forced teams to play their style of football and it has been working. Ball control is of the utmost importance and the Ravens will need to keep the ball away from an ever dangerous Chargers offense including the return of running back Melvin Gordon. The Ravens plan of attack needs to remain, but the passing game must improve and get into rhythm early. At home, the Chargers are more than capable of hitting a few explosive plays and forcing the Ravens to abandon their game plan if going up a few scores early.
The Ravens defense has been locking down opponents overall, but seem to keep getting burned on the broken and explosive plays by the opposing quarterback. The rushing attack and ball control offense keeps the defensive unit fresh and able to consistently get after opposing quarterbacks. Philip Rivers may just be the best thing to happen to the Ravens defense this week as he prone to throwing interceptions under pressure and is not nearly as mobile as Patrick Mahomes and Jameis Winston who the Ravens just faced in back to back weeks. The key is to limit the explosive plays and not allow Philip Rivers time in the pocket. If Melvin Gordon returns, the Ravens must contain his ability to break the outside runs and shut him down with pressure from all angles. Taking the run game away from the Chargers and forcing Rivers to beat them through the air may be the best plan of attack in securing a victory.
Statistically, both teams are very similar in terms of total offensive and defensive numbers. The difference lies in the on field talent and skill position players. The Chargers appear to have the upper hand offensively, while the Ravens have the edge on defense. This matchup will most certainly be an interesting chess match and both teams could even possibly meet again in the NFL playoffs.
Any given Sunday, or any given Saturday, one thing is for certain, anything can happen thanks to that magical NFL buzzword “Parity.”