Chargers ML +140 at Ravens — 1.5 units
I’ll start this one by saying that the Ravens are not a good matchup for the Chargers in terms of personnel – the Ravens defense thrives on hurrying QBs up, Rivers has a tendency to throw untimely picks, and the Chargers are still without some of their best run defenders (Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget) against a team that runs the ball extremely well.
That being said, the Chargers can still win this game. The Chargers played horrendous in the first half against Baltimore in Week 16 and yet it was just a 6-3 Baltimore lead at halftime. Rivers threw 2 picks and the Chargers had a fumble in that game. Turning the ball over just once or twice in this game instead of three times makes it a closer game. In a close game, Lamar is going to have to make a timely throw. He is still going to run all over the Chargers today but the Chargers can win because their redzone defense is great (5th best in the NFL). If you remember in Week 16, Lamar had a touchdown on a deep pass and didn’t have to do much work in the redzone. I don’t see the Chargers giving up a big pass for a touchdown here. The score in that game was 22-10 and if you take away a big pass, that game was in the teens. This game has a really good chance of being close and low scoring in the 4th quarter and that’s where experience will kick in and a Lamar Jackson throwing mistake or inability to convert a big 3rd down can be the difference in the game.
I like the emotional edge for the Chargers here, too. In the first matchup the Bolts were coming off an emotional high after beating KC whereas the Ravens were hunting for a playoff spot. Now the Chargers are the hunters and the Ravens are the ones coming off the high of getting into the playoffs for the first time in a few years. I’ve followed the Bolts closely for years – they play better as dogs than they do as favorites. I’m not worried about the 1pm start/west coast team angle because the Chargers have won in this spot over the years (last year they forced OT @ Jacksonville when the Jags were actually good and the Chargers covered as 5 point dogs).
Rivers makes me nervous at times but the Chargers have some ballers on offense – Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Melvin Gordon, Antonio Gates, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin. These guys will be charged up. Austin Ekeler was just announced active a half hour ago and that is huge news even though few people will think so – he’s a great receiving threat out of the backfield for Rivers, can run in between the tackles, and can help Rivers get the ball out of his hands quicker and lessen the Ravens’ pass rush.
I expect to sweat in this game but I think emotion is on the side of the Chargers and emotion can will a team to a win. Chargers win a close one.