For the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s got to be frustrating playing a game on the road at 12-4, especially a grudge match against the team that put you here to begin with. Had the Chargers beaten the Ravens in Week 16, there’s a good chance they’d be watching the Chiefs play this game with their feet up, but that’s not how the NFL works. Now they need to fight for the chance to play a divisional game on the road.
Here’s what to know to watch the Ravens as they host the Chargers.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens
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The entire CBS Sports board save for two is picking the Ravens in this one. Will Brinson and Pete Prisco have the Chargers getting over their hump, while Jason La Canfora, Jared Dubin, John Breech, Ryan Wilson, Dave Richard and Jamey Eisenberg like the Ravens to keep the train rolling. They’ve showed this season that they can roll with anyone, but these are two wild card teams with the potential to create problems past this weekend. The Chiefs and Patriots will definitely be eyeing this game very closely.
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What to expect
The Ravens, simply put, punched the Chargers in the mouth in a vintage Baltimore performance when these two teams last met. The Ravens notched a 22-10 win, limiting Philip Rivers to 181 yards passing and a pair of picks coming off arguably the Chargers’ biggest win of the season over the eventual AFC West-champion Chiefs.
However, there is one key difference for the Chargers in the grudge match: Melvin Gordon is inching back toward being healthy, and Austin Ekeler should be back as well. If that two-headed monster is back, the Chargers may end up finding themselves in a much different situation offensively.
Not that the Ravens care, mind you. They’re fourth in the NFL against the run with 1,327 yards allowed. They’re fifth against the pass, and second in the league in points allowed. Then, of course, there’s the magic word: momentum. The Ravens won six of their last seven games toget to this position, with rookie Lamar Jackson playing quarterback in all of them. While Jackson’s numbers are hardly mind-boggling — he’s completing under 60 percent of his passes and averaging about seven yards per attempt — you can’t argue with the results. He’s averaging nearly 4.7 yards per carry with four rushing touchdowns.
Jackson, however, is vulnerable. He’s fumbled the ball in every start this season, and he’s tied for the league lead with 12 on the year. He hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 12 this year, so that’s not the best way to beat him. But if Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa can get to him on the outside, the Chargers may be able to force some takeaways against a team that’s susceptible to giving the ball away.
Naturally, the running back drama within the AFC North overshadowed the Ravens’ situation, but Kenneth Dixon and Gus Edwards present an interesting dilemma for the Chargers. Edwards ran all over Los Angeles in their last game, notching 92 yards on 14 carries. When Alex Collins was placed on IR, Edwards picked up the slack nicely, but he’s a nonfactor in the passing game. The Chargers have the cornerback depth to make the Ravens one-dimensional in favor of the run if they play well, and that’s dangerous in today’s NFL.
Jackson is obviously the X-factor in this one. If he protects the ball and allows the Ravens to hold the ball, they should be in good shape. However, this game is going to be tough. The Chargers have been something of a surprise this year, and if Rivers can get all of his weapons involved, they’ll be a tough out. Rivers has played well on the road this season — in fact, the Chargers are 7-1 outside of Los Angeles — so playing this game on the road isn’t debilitating for them. However, it’s definitely not against a team they wanted to see again any time soon.