In just two weeks the Chargers have gone from 4 point favorites at home against the Ravens to 2.5 point underdogs on the road in Baltimore. The only thing making this more of a road game for the Chargers is the travel. The Chargers fans were outnumbered as usual in the aforementioned Ravens game. I took the Chargers in that game and I was wrong. The Chargers lost 22-10 and appeared to be dominated but the game was much closer than the score dictates. The Chargers first play resulted in an interception which gave the Ravens a short field and allowed them to start the game with a field goal. The Ravens would also score a defensive TD and a 68 yard TD pass from Lamar Jackson, by far his longest pass of the season. Since Lamar Jackson has taken over as Ravens QB the Ravens offense has been carried by their running game averaging over 200 yards rushing per game. This brand of smash-mouth football has worked for a few reasons; first off nobody has been expecting it. The NFL in 2018 is a passing league and teams are not expected to run their offense this way. This has allowed the Ravens offense to catch teams by surprise running an offense they are unable to prepare for. The next reason is the Ravens defense. They are ranked 3rd in overall efficiency (3rd passing, 6th rushing) and is really the driving force of the smash-mouth style of play they have. Without their defense dominating the way they have their offense would not be effective. The last reason is the poor schedule of opponents they played. They played two teams with a winning record down the stretch, the Chiefs and Chargers and went 1-1 in those contests. With the Chargers and Ravens meeting for a second time I think the familiarity benefits the Chargers.
The Chargers are coming into this game ranked 3rd in overall efficiency (3rd offense, 8th defense, 25th ST). The Ravens are a few spots below them at 6th (15th offense, 3rd defense, 6th ST). By those numbers alone you can see that the line is a bit inflated. Keep in mind that since this is playoff time, the line is very much dictated by the public. This also includes the notion that the Chargers play poorly when traveling east. Although that has not been the case this year. The only road game the Chargers lost this year was to their crosstown rival Rams. Even one of their “home” victories came against the Titans in London. I said before their last matchup that the Ravens could end up in trouble if the Chargers are able to score early and often. That once they fall behind it will be extremely difficult for them to come back with their offense. We have not seen Lamar Jackson lead his team on a last minute scoring drive to win a game. Despite running an offense similar to Tim Tebow’s in Denver, Lamar Jackson has not shown any of that same late game Tebow magic. I do not see the Chargers making the same mistakes again today that they did in their first matchup. The early turnover and big play TD pass is really what put the Chargers in a hole. Those plays and a late defensive touchdown accounted for 16 of the Ravens 22 points that day. I do not see that happening again for the Ravens. I see the Chargers taking an early lead and cruising to the finish line. Once the Ravens fall behind, their one dimensional offense will be exposed for what it is. A gimmicky offense that can win some games in the NFL but will not be successful in the playoffs.