The best wildcard rematch game is here, as the Chargers travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.
After edging out the Browns in week 17, the Ravens are hosting their first home playoff game since their 2013 victory against the Colts. The Ravens are also favored by -2 for the first time since that 2013 Colts game as well.
(+4 underdog vs Chargers week 16)
For all of the buzz this season about Lamar Jackson not being an NFL ready quarterback, not making the NFL throws and more, he stands alone as the league’s only rookie quarterback appearing in the postseason.
If the Ravens do indeed make it all the way, don’t forget where you heard it first. Lamar dropped this gem on Deon Sanders post draft selection.
In their week 16 matchup, Lamar Jackson had arguably one of his best throws this season hitting tight end Mark Andrews in stride (between two defenders) for a 68 yard touchdown pass. He also went over the 200 yard passing mark for the first time this season against the Chargers.
The challenge this time will be that the Chargers have faced this Ravens rushing attack and have had three weeks to break down the film. The Browns exposed the Ravens secondary on explosive plays, having five different wide receivers average 15 yards per catch in the game and long receptions of 48, 40, 38, 42, and 28.
The Ravens have struggled against mobile quarterbacks who can move the pocket, escape and throw on the run. While Philip Rivers is no Baker Mayfield, he found success late against the Ravens when he was able to get off quick throws, hot reads and slants. The Ravens defense was able to force two interceptions and will have to repeat that same aggressive performance to keep the Chargers offense in check.
The Chargers defense struggled mightily getting off the field on third down against the Ravens offense and in this rematch, it is safe to assume that will be a key area of focus. For the Ravens to stay on top throughout the playoffs, they will have to incorporate a few wrinkles into the offense to keep defenses off-balance. While last weeks run call of Maxx Williams was a bit odd, it is that type of designed play that will make a difference, given they are called at appropriate times.
(Think back to the Maxx Williams lining up off-center pass call against Pittsburgh to sustain drive)
For the Ravens to have success on defense, they must keep the same pressure on Philip Rivers as they did in their last matchup (4 sacks, 2 interceptions) while staying aggressive against the ball carriers, forcing fumbles and delivering the big hits. The Ravens secondary did not have their best game against the Browns and will need to rebound quickly in order to contain the receiving threats of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and also a possible Hunter Henry returning at tight end.
The offensive recipe doesn’t change, run the ball, control the clock and make a few big plays. Lamar Jackson has developed week to week and while he will certainly have some off target throws, ultimately, if you look at his past six starts, he comes through at key times on offensive drives. The deep ball continues to be a source of great potential. Opposing defenses are selling out to stop the Ravens rush attack and the play-action game has been freezing opposing linebackers. With any type of successful deep ball attack, the Ravens can take their offense to a Super Bowl level.
There is no doubt M&T will be rocking on Sunday, Festivus has arrived and the “Airing of the Greivances” begins against the Chargers.