Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM
WC - Chargers at Ravens
For the second time in three weeks, the Chargers and Ravens are meeting up. The first matchup took place in Los Angeles in Week 16, but the venue shifts to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday. The two teams combined for 22 regular season victories, marking the most of any of the four Wild Card matchups this weekend.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Chargers (12-4 SU, 9-7 ATS) had high expectations entering their second season in Los Angeles following a 9-7 campaign. The Lightning Bolts ended 2017 by winning nine of their last 12 games with plenty of momentum heading into 2018, but L.A. stumbled to a 1-2 start. From there, the Chargers ripped off six consecutive victories, while limiting five straight opponents to 19 points or less.
Los Angeles had an opportunity to capture the AFC West title with a late surge after shocking Kansas City in Week 15 to improve to 11-3. However, the Chargers lost at home to Baltimore in Week 16, opening up the door for the Chiefs to grab the division title and eventually the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Interestingly enough, the Chargers didn’t lose a road game outside of Los Angeles this season as the Bolts fell to the Rams in Week 3 at the Coliseum.
The Ravens (10-6 SU, 8-8 ATS) went through their share of ups and downs this season en route to their first AFC North title since 2012 (the same season they won Super Bowl XLVII). Baltimore began the season with Joe Flacco starting at quarterback and won four of its first six games. The Ravens then hit the skids with three consecutive losses in the favorite role, including home defeats to New Orleans and Pittsburgh.
After the bye week in November, Flacco was sidelined with a hip injury and replaced by first-round pick Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Jackson brought a running dynamic to the offense as he led Baltimore to a 6-1 record down the stretch with the lone defeat coming at Kansas City in overtime. The Ravens failed to cover as a favorite three times in wins, including in the Week 17 triumph over Cleveland to vault Baltimore into the playoffs and kick out rival Pittsburgh.
WHO TO WATCH
Philip Rivers put together another spectacular season for Los Angeles by eclipsing the 30-touchdown mark for the fourth time in six seasons by tossing 32 touchdown passes. Six of Rivers’ 12 interceptions on the season came in the final three weeks, including two against Baltimore in Week 16. Melvin Gordon finished shy of his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season by racking up 885 yards in 12 games, as the Chargers’ tailback missed three games down the stretch. Wide receiver Keenan Allen accumulated 1,196 yards through the air, while picking up five catches for 58 yards against the Ravens.
Jackson’s highest passing performance came against the Chargers by throwing for 204 yards, which included a 68-yard touchdown pass. The Heisman Trophy winner didn’t toss an interception in his last five games, while rushing for 695 yards and five scores this season, which includes two touchdown runs in the Week 17 victory over Cleveland. The Ravens didn’t have a player rack up over 750 yards rushing or receiving, as wideout John Brown’s numbers went significantly down after Flacco was hurt. Brown racked up 114 yards in six games with Jackson at quarterback, compared to 601 yards in the first nine contests with Flacco.
Two teams finished with 7-1 road records this season, the Saints and the Chargers. Los Angeles never owned a real home-field advantage at StubHub Center, but the Lightning Bolts closed the season with six consecutive away victories. The Chargers swept their AFC West counterparts on the highway, while winning four games in the underdog role against the Chiefs, Steelers, Seahawks, and Browns.
The Ravens won six of eight games at M&T Bank Stadium, while Baltimore hasn’t lost at home with Jackson at quarterback in four contests. Baltimore hit the OVER in four home games, while Los Angeles drilled the OVER in five of eight road contests.
The Week 16 matchup in Los Angeles was an interesting situation for both teams. The Chargers were coming off the incredible rally at Kansas City nine days prior, while the Ravens brought in a 3-1 ATS record as an underdog. The Ravens and Chargers combined for three field goals in the opening half as Baltimore led, 6-3. Los Angeles went right down the field to start the second half, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Gordon as the Chargers grabbed a 10-6 lead.
The Ravens struck one minute later on a Jackson 68-yard connection to Mark Andrews to give Baltimore back a 13-10 lead. The Chargers wouldn’t score again as the Ravens recovered a fumble late and ran it back for a touchdown to cap off a 22-10 victory as four-point underdogs. The game easily finished UNDER the total of 42 ½, while Rivers finished under 200 yards for the first time this season with 181 yards.
Baltimore has captured four of the past six matchups with Los Angeles since 2009, while the Chargers are making their first visit to M&T Bank Stadium since 2015. Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal in the final seconds to give Baltimore a 27-24 victory, but the Chargers covered as 4 ½-point underdogs.
Following a three-year absence, the Ravens are back in the playoffs. Baltimore qualified for the postseason six times in a seven-year span from 2008 through 2014, while never getting knocked out in its first playoff game. The Ravens are hosting a Wild Card game for the second time since 2008, as Baltimore beat Indianapolis, 24-9 in 2012, while John Harbaugh’s squad owns a perfect 5-0 mark in the Wild Card round.
The Chargers are in the playoffs for only the second time since 2010, as Los Angeles advanced to the divisional playoffs in 2013. The Bolts routed the Bengals in the Wild Card round that season, while Rivers is 3-0 in the Wild Card round in his career. Los Angeles and Baltimore are meeting in the playoffs for the first time ever, as the Ravens will have faced all four AFC West teams in the postseason since their move from Cleveland in 1996.
VegasInsider.com NFL expert Joe Nelson weighs in on this matchup, starting with the defenses, “The Chargers have an above average run defense allowing 4.3 yards per carry and just 11 rushing touchdowns this season, but Baltimore is near the top of the league in run defense with just 3.7 yards per carry allowed. Surprisingly these teams were not built on turnover success this season with the Chargers only finishing +1 in turnover margin while Baltimore was actually -3 in turnovers. Despite a rookie quarterback playing nearly half the games for the Ravens, only five NFL teams threw fewer interceptions than Baltimore and the Ravens were near the middle of the league in pass attempts.”
Is this the year for Rivers to finally break through? “The Chargers have never won a Super Bowl and this may be one of the last opportunities for Rivers who recently turned 37. Rivers had a great statistical season finishing 7th in the NFL in QBR and 5th in QB Rating and this was a big play offense with Rivers posting nearly 8.5 yards per attempt, second only to Patrick Mahomes among regular starters. Baltimore surrendered 6.3 yards per attempt on the season for the third best mark in the NFL as this will be a difficult matchup for the Los Angeles offense,” Nelson notes.
There hasn’t been much movement on this line all week, which started with Baltimore laying 2 ½ points at the Westgate Superbook. The Ravens currently sit between a 2 ½-point and three-point favorite at most books with the total between 41 ½ and 42. The Chargers are listed at 12/1 odds to win Super Bowl LIII, while the Ravens are 14/1 to capture the title at
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