Every Wednesday, reporter Jon Meoli will serve up five stats you should know heading into that week’s Ravens game. This week’s stats, prepared ahead of Sunday's visit from the San Diego Chargers, touch on all the aspects of a game the Ravens typically excel in at home, including dominating the opponent's offensive line, efficiency in the passing game, and big special teams plays.
Four – That’s how many spots down the depth chart the Chargers will have to reach for this week’s starting center, rookie Chris Watt. Nick Hardwick, Doug Legursky, and now Rich Orhnberger are on injured reserve, leaving a new cog in San Diego’s offensive line to deal with the crowd noise at M&T Bank and the Ravens' pass rush. A rookie with limited experience will be tasked with stopping nose tackle Brandon Williams and defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan on the inside, which could bode well for the Ravens.
264.6 – Saints quarterback Drew Brees raised the Ravens passing yards allowed per game to nearly 265, good for fourth-worst in the league. The Chargers passing game works in many ways, and receivers Eddie Royal and Keenan Allen have gotten over the top of better players than the Ravens have in their secondary. Overall, I don’t think those miscues will be as costly as they were in New Orleans, but the Ravens’ pass defense gets no reprieve with the man who replaced Brees in San Diego, Phillip Rivers.
45 – Ravens wide receiver/kick returner Jacoby Jones only got two opportunities to return kicks in his homecoming game in New Orleans, but no team allows more kicks to be returned than San Diego, which has allowed 45 in 11 games. Their average yards allowed, 21.5, is eighth-lowest in the league, but expect Jones to get plenty of opportunities to change the game on special teams Sunday.
Eight – Before the bye, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak lamented the team’s short-yardage running game. That must have been excluding quarterback c, who ran for his eighth first down in nine tries on third- or fourth-and-short on Monday. The rest of the running game is a combined 12 for 19 in that category this year. Flacco is obviously athletic enough to get a couple yards when he needs to — and his willingness to take hits in Week 1 against Cincinnati is still etched in my mind — but it’s dangerous to have to rely on him too much for that.
7.4 – Speaking of the quarterback, Flacco's 7.4 yards per attempt is up to 12th in the NFL, buoyed by an efficient performance on Monday night. I think he ends up in the top-8 in the league in this category as the team focuses more on the run while still hitting big plays through the air, but his success in this category will help the team limit turnovers and move the ball more efficiently and effectively than in some of the games when he’s struggled.