Starting off Sunday’s NFL playoff games will be familiar foes as the Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) will travel to play against the AFC North Division champs, the Baltimore Ravens (10-6). The Ravens were able to go to Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago and secured a 22-10 victory. Now, the Chargers look to return the favor with higher stakes on the line. Will Los Angeles be able to gain revenge or will Baltimore confirm their dominance over the Chargers this season? Let’s take a look at the preview.
Quarterbacks: Chargers QB Philip Rivers (4,308 yds, 32 TD, 12 INT) had one of his best seasons over his illustrious career. He was able to lead Los Angeles back to the playoffs by winning the close games this season that they would have lost last season. For Baltimore, quarterback Lamar Jackson (1,201 passing yds, 6 TD, 3 INT, 695 rushing yards) has given the Ravens a much-needed spark by going 6-1 in which he started the last seven games. His running has added an extra dynamic to the Ravens offense. Advantage: Chargers.
Running Backs: Both teams have been able to work around nagging injuries to their slew of running backs in order to make the postseason. For the Ravens, Gus Edwards (718 yds) was able to take over towards the end of the season after gaining the starting job with his bruising running style. For the Chargers, RB Melvin Gordon (885 yds, 10 TD’s) should be ready to go as he has been dealing with ankle injuries the entire season. Gordon is also a receiving threat (490 rec yds, 4 TD) out of the backfield. Advantage: Chargers.
Receivers: Los Angeles has a very deep receiving corps with WR’s Keenan Allen (97 rec, 1,196 yds, 6 TD), red-zone threat Mike Williams (664 yds, 10 TD), and Tyrell Williams (653 yds, 5 TD). Watch out also for TE Antonio Gates (333 yds, 2 TD) as well. The Ravens have relied upon three veterans to keep defenses honest with Willie Snead IV (651yds), Michael Crabtree (607 yds), and John Brown (715 yds). Advantage: Chargers.
Defensive Line: The Ravens run a 3-4 defense with the defensive line’s main focus on stuffing the run, while the Chargers run a 4-3 with their top four sack leaders along the defensive line. Advantage: Chargers.
Linebackers: With the differing philosophies, the Chargers basically use their linebackers to stop the run or to cover in zone packages, while the Ravens use theirs to rush the passer with reckless abandon: Za’Darius Smith (8.5 sacks), Terrell Suggs (7 sacks), and Matthew Judon (7 sacks). Plus, C.J. Mosley (105 tackles) makes plays all over the field. Advantage: Ravens.
Secondary: Both teams have stellar secondary units that look to make impact plays. For the Chargers, look for S Derwin James (105 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 INT) to create havoc. For the Ravens, look for safties Tony Jefferson (74 tackles) and Eric Weddle (68 tackles) to help stymie the run game. Advantage: Even.
Kickers/Special Teams: Both teams are excellent at special teams. The Ravens have one of the best kicking duos in the NFL with K Justin Tucker and P Sam Koch. The Chargers finally found a kicker in Caleb Sturgis this season. Advantage: Ravens.
My prediction for the game will be the Chargers winning 27-24. Having the loss fresh in their mind, the Chargers should be able to make some adjustments.
Sources: Stats are from Chargers.com and BaltimoreRavens.com. The pic is from Pixabay.com.