Baltimore Sun columnist Mike Preston picks three key matchups in the Ravens' game against the San Diego Chargers.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs Ravens CB Jimmy Smith: Allen is a big target for quarterback Philip Rivers and he leads the NFL with 62 receptions for 690 yards and three touchdowns. Allen is averaging nine catches a game and is on pace for a 142-catch season. Smith has struggled with consistency most of this season but has all the physical tools to be dominant. Smith just needs to be more aggressive and learn how to put his hands on receivers at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. Edge: Chargers.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. Ravens DC Dean Pees: Maybe no quarterback, including Denver's Peyton Manning, calls more of his own plays than Rivers. He has completed 215 of 311 passes this season for 2,452 yards and 15 touchdowns. Pees has to find a way to slow Rivers down, especially with some new wrinkles after the snap. That will be tough to do because Rivers has seen just about everything through the years. If Pees can't dial up some defenses, Rivers will torch the Ravens. Edge: Even.
Chargers ILB Donald Butler vs. Ravens Gs Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda: Butler usually teams with fellow inside linebacker Manti Te'o, and they are the top two tacklers on the team. Te'o has been declared out for the game, so the Ravens need to key in on Butler, who has 28 tackles this season. San Diego has the 31st-ranked run defense in the NFL allowing 132.1 yards per game. Osemele and Yanda are one of the better guard tandems in the league. If the Ravens can run the ball, they can slow the Chargers offense. Osemele and Yanda have to be able to get to Butler, especially to cut off lateral pursuit. Edge: Ravens.