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Ravens-Chargers: Five predictions for Sunday

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Ravens-Chargers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 29 November 2014 by Luke Jones

Playing their final game of November, the Ravens welcome the San Diego Chargers to M&T Bank Stadium for a meeting with critical AFC playoff ramifications.

Both teams enter Week 13 with a 7-4 record, but the Chargers face a tall order in trying to become the first West Coast team ever to beat the Ravens in Baltimore. Of course, it’s no secret that West Coast teams flying east for 1 p.m. kickoffs generally don’t fare well as the Chargers were blanked 37-0 at Miami to begin the month of November.

Who will win on Sunday?

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In addition to simply keeping pace in the very competitive AFC North where all teams in a division are three games above .500 for the first time in NFL history, the Ravens desperately need to improve a 3-4 conference record that can often be crucial in determining playoff spots at the end of the season. Of course, that record will take care of itself if Baltimore simply continues to win down the stretch.

Sunday marks the 10th time these teams have ever met with the Ravens holding a 5-4 all-time advantage and a 2-0 record in Baltimore. The Chargers will be playing in Baltimore for the first time since the 2006 season when Steve McNair threw a last-second touchdown to Todd Heap to give the Ravens a dramatic victory.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 8-4 in their quest to return to the postseason …

1. Brandon Williams will have another big game as San Diego struggles to run the ball between the tackles. The second-year nose tackle probably hasn’t gotten as much credit as he deserves in his first season as a starter and played his best game of the season in the win over New Orleans. Meanwhile, the Chargers have sent three centers to injured reserve this year and are now relying on rookie Chris Watt at the position. The third-round product from Notre Dame played well in his first start against St. Louis last week, but Williams and Haloti Ngata will make it a long day for a line that won’t be able to open running lanes for running back Ryan Mathews. San Diego will run for less than 85 yards on the day.

2. Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd will catch a touchdown pass matched up against one of the Ravens’ undersized cornerbacks. The Baltimore secondary gave up a slew of passing yards in New Orleans, but the unit was able to make plays when needed as was the case with safety Will Hill’s interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. The 6-foot-5 Floyd presents a matchup problem without the more physical Jimmy Smith on the field. The 33-year-old has stayed healthy this year and is having one of the better seasons of his career with over 600 receiving yards. He’ll catch a touchdown in the red zone as the Chargers take advantage of his size advantage.

3. Justin Forsett will go over the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career. San Diego’s defense is its biggest strength, but the Chargers are allowing 4.4 yards per carry, ranking 21st in the NFL. With the way the offensive line has blocked and Forsett has been able to find seams in the defense, how can you pick against the Baltimore running game at this point? The 29-year-old needs 97 yards on the ground for 1,000 on the season and he’ll reach that mark in the fourth quarter. The Ravens will establish the run early to set up play-action opportunities down the field against a strong secondary and the league’s sixth-ranked pass defense.

4. San Diego left tackle King Dunlap will not be able to stop Terrell Suggs, who will pick up two sacks on the day. It hasn’t been a poor season for the veteran linebacker, but you know he’d love to narrow the gap between his six sacks and Elvis Dumervil’s team-leading 12 1/2 in 2014. Suggs will have a great opportunity against Dunlap, who has struggled in pass protection and is much more effective as a run blocker. After crossing the 100-sack threshold for his career last week, Suggs will add two more to his total as the Chargers focus on giving right tackle D.J. Fluker more help in blocking Dumervil. The inability to run the football will leave San Diego with plenty of difficulty protecting the pocket all day.

5. Philip Rivers will throw for more yards than Joe Flacco, but the running game will control the tempo in a 26-14 win for the Ravens. The Chargers quarterback will play admirably, but the lack of a running game will have him running for his life far too often. In contrast, the Ravens’ ability to run the ball will limit Flacco’s opportunities, but the seventh-year quarterback will be efficient and cautious against a talented secondary. The Ravens will control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and have allowed just 10.6 points per home game this season. If this game were being played in San Diego, the result might be different, but the Ravens will be in command from the start on their way to a relatively comfortable win.

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Ravens-Chargers: Five predictions for Sunday

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Ravens-Chargers: Five predictions for Sunday

Posted on 24 November 2012 by Luke Jones

Still chasing the Houston Texans for the top seed in the AFC, the Ravens travel to San Diego for the third time in four years to take on the struggling Chargers.

Here’s what to expect as Baltimore tries to improve to 5-4 all-time against the Chargers and avenge a 34-14 beating suffered last December …

1. The Baltimore defense will force a turnover against quarterback Philip Rivers to set up a touchdown. Pressuring Rivers will be critical as the San Diego offensive line has been porous all season, allowing 26 sacks and contributing to his league-leading 14 interceptions entering Week 12. I’m not sure the Ravens will be able to get to him consistently, but they’ll bait Rivers into throwing a pick to set up the offense on a short field. After dealing with the drama of initially being handed a one-game suspension before winning his appeal, safety Ed Reed will come to play on Sunday and is the likeliest candidate to pull off a theft in what will be a pass-happy day for Rivers and the Chargers.

2. Neither running game will be a major factor at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The Chargers have struggled to run the ball and will try to exploit an injury-plagued secondary with their passing game. The Ravens haven’t run the ball effectively in recent weeks and will be facing the league’s third-ranked rush defense. Favorable conditions and San Diego’s 19th-ranked pass defense will coax the Ravens into putting the game in the hands of quarterback Joe Flacco as the running game will solely be used to keep the Chargers honest. Neither Ryan Mathews nor Ray Rice will sniff the 100-yard rushing mark in this one.

3. Tall receiving target Malcom Floyd will give the Ravens’ depleted secondary fits for the second year in a row. The recent emergence of 6-foot-5 target Danario Alexander on the other side gives Rivers two gigantic targets on the outside to go along with tight end Antonio Gates and has helped offset the departure of Vincent Jackson and the disappointing production from free-agent bust Robert Meachem. The absence of Jimmy Smith and newly-signed veteran Chris Johnson will leave smaller corners in Corey Graham and Chykie Brown on the field in the nickel package while a taller Cary Williams doesn’t play with much of a physical presence anyway. Floyd burned the Ravens last year to the tune of five catches, 96 yards, and a touchdown. Floyd will post similar numbers on Sunday and will catch a touchdown pass against Baltimore for the second year in a row.

4. Torrey Smith will bounce back from a rough outing last week to catch a touchdown. Pittsburgh was able to make Smith a non-factor as he was held to only one catch for seven yards after he had caught three touchdown passes in the two previous games. The Ravens will go with three-wide sets early in the game to make Jacoby Jones’ presence felt and detract some safety attention from Smith. The second-year wide receiver may not catch a long bomb for a score, but he’ll show off his improved route-running ability against the Chargers and utilize his speed to score his eighth touchdown of the season in a bounce-back performance.

5. The Ravens are clearly the better team, but a Pittsburgh hangover, an inconsistent offense, and an unfavorable matchup in the passing game result in a 24-20 loss to the Chargers. A physical and emotionally-draining game with Pittsburgh always leaves both teams weary the following week as the Ravens dropped both games last season immediately following wins over the Steelers. Until they prove otherwise away from M&T Bank Stadium, Flacco and the Baltimore offense cannot be trusted to score enough points to overcome a defense that’s depleted in the secondary and matching up with big receiving targets all over the field. There won’t be much room in the running game, meaning Flacco will need to win this one for the Ravens. The offense won’t be as brutally bad as it was in Pittsburgh, but it won’t be able to save the day by fending off an upset in a difficult West Coast trip.

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