The 12-4 Los Angeles Chargers come into today’s game with the best record in the AFC and the third best record in the NFL, yet they open the playoffs on the road because they lost a tiebreaker for the AFC West title with the Kansas City Chiefs. That tiebreaker could prove devastating, as the Chargers now have to travel clear across the country for an always difficult early east coast road game against the suddenly hot Baltimore Ravens. The Chargers are a well balanced team with a top quarterback in Philip Rivers and offensive and defensive units both ranked in the top eight in the NFL in terms of points. The Chargers have won five of their last six games. Their only loss in that season closing stretch was, ominously, a 22-10 home loss to this Ravens team just two weeks ago. That game was the only game all season the Chargers offense was held to less than 20 points. Two weeks later, this time on the road, facing a difficult time slot and cross country trip, a win today will be an uphill climb for the Chargers.
The 10-6 Baltimore Ravens come into this game on a roll, winners of six of their last seven games. The Ravens revitalized play corresponds to the insertion of electric rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson into the lineup. Jackson has lifted a moribund Ravens offense, which has scored 24 or more points in five of the last seven games after not reaching that milestone once in the prior five contests. The Ravens rely on their tried and true formula of a rugged defense and a run oriented offense. The Ravens field the best defense in the NFL in yards allowed and the second most prolific rushing attack in the NFL. That rushing attack has become lethal with Jackson under center, with the Ravens rushing for an absurd 230 yards per game over the last seven games of the season. Find a way to shut down the Ravens running game and you will find a way to beat the Ravens. That, however, has proven to be an all but impossible task since Lamar Jackson became the starter at quarterback.
It’s the Chargers and the Ravens to kick off this Wild Card Sunday.
Enjoy the game everybody.