The Ravens and Chargers are a couple of teams currently searching for an identity. Or should I say the Ravens are a squad that is maybe in the process of changing identities. The once vaunted Ravens’ defense is actually among the leagues worst statistically believe it or not. They did manage to shutdown the Steelers last week, but keep in mind that was Byron Leftwich, a Leftwich that was playing with broken ribs for pretty much the entire contest. Everything isn’t lost though, because the offense has turned into a reliable unit that no longer just runs the ball and lets the defense win ball games. Conversely, the Chargers really have no identity, once a team that could keep up with the best offenses in the NFL has turned into a mess. I predicted Norv Turner was going to be fired half way through last season and was shocked it didn’t happen at some point, but I think after this season it is inevitable that he will be looking for a new job in the offseason.
With the departure of Vincent Jackson and a porous offensive line, Philip Rivers has been having arguably his worst season as a pro. Rivers has passed for 2461 yards and 17 touchdowns, only averaging 246.1 yards per game. Most of the problem is due to his interceptions where he has dished out 14. Rivers’ 87.6 quarterback rating is the lowest since his 2007 campaign. Back then though, Rivers had a running game to depend on with LaDainian Tomlinson manning the backfield. Ryan Mathews has taken his place since then, who has been marred by injuries every season. Mathews, of course, will be nursing a neck injury coming into Sunday, but is expected to start. The running game for the Chargers has been lackluster at best, rushing for 100.3 yards per game (23rd). When your quarterback isn’t getting any protection and making boneheaded decisions at the same time, the running game needs to be on point. The passing game ranks 17th best in the NFL, with the offense scoring 23.2 points a game.
Perhaps if the Chargers had a suffocating defense then the below average offense wouldn’t be as noticeable, but they are susceptible through the air. Against the run is a different story, where they are the 3rd best team in the league in that regard, giving up only 87.9 yards on the ground. If this was the Ravens of old I think they would have some troubles here, but the Ravens do like to air it out with regularity under Joe Flacco. The Ravens passing game has a multitude of options with Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, or even underneath with Ray Rice. The offense is only 21st in terms of total offense, but they still score just under 27 points a game, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. Rice has seen a dip in production with the running game being the 25th best in the nation; however, I do not foresee the Ravens attacking the Chargers much on the ground in this one. Expect Flacco to keep the ball in his hands. That’s not to say Rice can’t have a big game, because with the talent he has, it certainly isn’t out of the question.
The defense uncharacteristically is the bunch that has held the Ravens back this season. It all came to a head when Ray Lewis was declared out for the season. The defense seemingly went down with their heart, soul, and leader. Terrell Suggs has since came back from injury, but it is evident he is still trying to shake some of the rust off. The unit ranks 21st in the NFL, allowing 26.7 points a game and 338.7 yards. The Ravens are most notably bad against the run at 27th, giving up 132.2 yards a game. The question is if Rivers, Mathews, and the rest of the Chargers can take advantage of a Ravens’ defense that is limping around on one leg.
Ravens vs. Chargers Spread and Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens -1 (-115)
@San Diego Chargers +1 (-105)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Ravens vs. Chargers Pick:
This may seem like a sure thing at first glance, the Ravens will surely beat up on the Chargers that have won 1 game in their last six efforts (4-6). They appear completely dead in the water with Philip Rivers under center. The Ravens on the other hand appear to be sitting comfortably atop the AFC North with an 8-2 mark. The defense hasn’t been the defense you come to expect from them, but they have made up for it with their much improved offense. The Ravens have been known to drop games like this in the past after winning a big game. They are a tough team to beat at home, but on the road things can get interesting.
The only legitimate team the Ravens have beaten on the road are the Steelers, and there they needed a gift of a fumble by the Steelers deep in their own territory and a punt return by Jacoby Jones to secure that victory. Without those two miscues by the Steelers, then the Ravens would have put up a whopping 3 points. Other teams the Ravens have beaten on the road include the Browns and Chiefs. In both of those games they could have easily lost those as well. A win is a win, but eventually it is going to catch up with the Ravens on the road. Last year in San Diego when these two met, the Chargers gashed the Ravens for a 34-14 final. The Ravens average only 16.8 points on the road, and have the Steelers on deck again next week. I don’t think it is going to get that ugly, but I like the Chargers to pick up a much needed win, catching the Ravens off guard having to travel from the east to the west coast after a physical Sunday night game.
PICK = Chargers +1