The Los Angeles Chargers head across the country to face the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the NFL playoffs after losing the tiebreaker for the AFC’s top seed in Week 17.
The Chargers have arguably the deepest roster in the entire conference, but dropped the first meeting to the Ravens in LA a few weeks prior. Now, with the rematch in place, Philip Rivers will attempt to outplay the rookie sensation Lamar Jackson and get back to the Divisional Round for the first time since 2013.
Rivers has had one of his best seasons as a quarterback to date and will likely finish inside the top five for MVP voting this month. Offensively, the Bolts have a dynamic aerial attack with Kennan Allen, and Mike and Tyrell Williams, but their running game has taken a step back with Melvin Gordon battling injuries. Austin Ekeler has helped pick up the slack, and could be in for another big game in Baltimore this afternoon.
On the defensive side of the ball the Chargers have an all-pro rookie in Derwin James. The first year defensive back has strongly made his case for both Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year, but it’s his play making ability that separates him from the other safeties in the conference. Defensive end Joey Bosa will be the difference maker in this key matchup and has elevated the Bolts’ pass rush since returning to the lineup last month.
For Baltimore, their defense has carried this roster along with Jackson’s ability to extend plays and chew away the clock with long drives. The last meeting between the clubs Jackson had multiple seven-plus minute drives that limited the amount of time and plays Rivers could have, ultimately diminishing the game plan of the Chargers’ run and gun play style.
This will undoubtedly be a low scoring game, and the Chargers will have to battle the adversity of travel and time change in this Wild Card matinée. I like LA to somehow prevail in a hostile environment and halt the Ravens mid-season turnaround, while furthering the offseason coaching talks for Baltimore’s John Harbaugh.