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12/22/18 Chargers vs. Ravens Pregame

Much like in recent years the Ravens find themselves playing a December game that is a “must win” situation or they will go home when the regular season ends. Saturday Night’s game with the Chargers will definitely have a playoff like atmosphere to it. The Chargers are playing for the number one seed in the AFC which, as you might imagine, they would like to have very much. The Ravens are in the hunt for one of the wild card slots and almost certainly have to win against the Chargers and then the Browns to have a chance to get in to the playoffs. The pressure on Coach Harbaugh must be excruciating because he has to understand that his future in Baltimore likely rides on the outcome of this game. This is going to be a tough game for the Ravens and here are some of the reasons:

• Ravens have to travel to the West Coast which has always been a challenge for them in the past
• Chargers got extra rest coming off a Thursday night game, the Ravens had a short week to recover
• Philip Rivers, likely Hall of Fame QB facing a rookie who is still wet behind the ears
• Chargers are arguably the most balanced team in the AFC with a 5th ranked offense and 8th ranked defense
• Chargers play at home with all the advantages that come with that

The Ravens have a very simply formula to win and every single person in the league knows it – run the ball, burn the clock, and get scores at the end of your offensive drives. The Ravens are not built to come from behind if the opponent gets a big lead. They are not a big play offense and I don’t think anyone is expecting Lamar to rack up a lot of yards in the air. And while our running game has been outstanding these past 5 games, Edwards, Jackson and Dixon have earned them mostly at clips of 4, 5 and 6 yards at a time. The Ravens Offense has had very few plays over 20 yards. The Ravens pass protection is not that great and Lamar doesn’t really feel the pressure that is coming to him. He will get better at this but it is understandably going to take some time. The defense is going to have their hands full with Philip Rivers, who is arguably having one of the best years of his career and is in the discussion for most valuable player. Rivers has an impressive group of receivers in Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams – and two excellent tight ends in Green and Gates. Gates has long been a Ravens killer in past games. The Chargers also have an outstanding running back in Melvin Gordon who is a load to bring down with his 6’1” 215-pound frame. He is averaging 5.2 yards per carry this year and is well on his way to another 1,000 seasons. Gordon is also a threat to catch passes out of the backfield and the Chargers are adept dealing with high pressure defenses. The Ravens defense is not going to shut down Rivers, they just have to keep the game in front of them to keep him from running up a big score. If the Ravens front four play like they did last week – we have no chance of winning this game. Suggs and Judon had better show up big, because Rivers is outstanding in the pocket and he can beat you no matter how good you think your secondary might be. It will be interesting to see how special teams plays into the outcome of this game.

The last time the Ravens played the Chargers out West they had the famous 4th and 29 conversion where Flacco threw to Ray Rice on a check down and Rice scrambled for 30 yards and a first down. On that same play Anquan Bolden blocked Eric Weddle on a blind side hit that helped Rice get the needed yardage. Weddle has not been the same player since that hit. To win this Saturday the Ravens are going to need that same kind of magic to win. The Ravens have their biggest challenge of the year with this game and they have a lot of things stacked against them. That said, running games and good defense travel well and they will need that to win this one. If the Chargers are able to stop the Ravens running game then this is going to be a very long game for the Ravens. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens get behind if Harbaugh puts Flacco in to try to get back into it. I am going to guess that they will do whatever they need to do in order to win – which includes Lamar running 20+ times, Flacco coming in, going for it on 4th down, and possibly fake punts and kicks. This is do or die time once again for the Ravens and they know it. I expect this to be a hard-fought game and likely a single possession game in the 4th quarter. The overwhelming bet this Saturday is on the Chargers and that is where I am landing as well. To me the big difference in these teams can be described with games they played against the Chiefs in Arrowhead. The Ravens had the lead with just a few minutes left in the game and could not stop the Chiefs from scoring even when the Chiefs were facing 4th and 12 to keep their drive alive. The Ravens could not get the job done. The Chargers on the other hand played KC on the road and were down by 14 points with just 8 minutes left in the game. They converted on two successful drives that both ended with TDs, the second TD with just a few seconds on the clock. Then in a bold move the Chargers went for the two-point conversion to win the game, and Rivers in clutch fashion hits his receiver for the two-points and the win. That is the big difference for me, the Chargers can close out the game and the Ravens just seem to come up a little bit short. I have been wrong in my predictions a lot this year and I hope that this game is no exception. The odds makers have the Chargers by 4 ½ points and I don’t think they will cover. The over/under is set at 44 and I like the over here. Enjoy the game and stay thirsty my friends.

Los Angeles Chargers hosting the Baltimore Ravens – December 22nd at 8:20 pm
Odds – Chargers by 4½

Game Predictions
Score      Ravens 23      Chargers 27
Turnovers      Minus 2
Net Rushing Yardage      Ravens 181     Chargers 94
Net Passing Yardage       Ravens 178      Chargers 284

Miscellaneous Predictions
• Antonio Gates has 4 receptions for 54 yards and 1 TD
• Ravens win the toss and defer 🙁
• Melvin Gordon gets 114 all-purpose yards
• Refs make terrible calls

Possible Monday morning headlines in the Sun Papers
• Rivers masterful in win over Ravens

Keys to the Game
• Run the ball 40+ times and burn the clock
• Attack Rivers, and get hits on him
• Protect the rock! Lamar, I talking to you brother

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