xml:space="preserve">

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson had another uneven passing game in Sunday’s 20-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, completing 14 of 23 but averaging just 5.7 yards an attempt and throwing a ball that should have been intercepted in the first quarter. He has found some chemistry with wide receiver Willie Snead IV, who’s caught 10 passes over the last two games. But the team’s other featured receivers, Michael Crabtree and John Brown, have been far less productive since Jackson took over for Joe Flacco. Rookie Hayden Hurst had one of his best games of the season against the Buccaneers, catching three passes on three targets.

CHARGERS PASSING GAME: Quarterback Philip Rivers is an MVP candidate in his 15th season, with 31 touchdown passes against eight interceptions and a career-best average of 8.8 yards per attempt. He might be without his top target, Keenan Allen, who left the Chargers’ last game with a hip pointer and missed practice on Tuesday. But Rivers has plenty of other options, including big-play threats Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, both of whom average 16 yards per catch. Melvin Gordon, a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, seems on track to return after missing the last three games with a sprained right MCL. Ageless tight end Antonio Gates remains a sure-handed target. The Chargers rank eighth in passing yards per game and second in yards per attempt.

Advertisement

EDGE: Chargers

***

Find out who The Sun's sports staff predicts will win the Ravens-Chargers game on Saturday.

RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens ran for 242 yards on 49 attempts against the Buccaneers, the fourth time they’ve cleared 200 rushing yards in Jackson’s five games as the starter. The rookie quarterback has run for 427 yards in that stretch, a 1,366-yard pace over 16 games. Michael Vick holds the single-season record for a quarterback at 1,039. Running back Gus Edwards produced another big game against Tampa Bay, with 104 yards on 19 carries. Kenneth Dixon has established himself as the No. 2 option, with 144 yards on 27 attempts over the last three games. With their performance under Jackson, the Ravens have moved to second in the league in rushing yards per game.

CHARGERS RUNNING GAME: The Chargers rank 12th in the league in yards per game but fourth in yards per attempt. A healthy return by Gordon, who averages 5.2 yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns in 10 games, would give them a boost. Backup Austin Ekeler has also been effective, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, but he missed the Chargers’ last game with a stinger. Justin Jackson is one of the league’s best third options at running back if he’s forced to fill in for either Gordon or Ekeler.

EDGE: Ravens

***

The Ravens would guarantee themselves an AFC playoff berth with two more victories. But if they lose Saturday night, they might not live to have a shot in Week 17.

RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Ravens rank third in the league in run defense and have allowed opponents to average just 3.8 yards per attempt. They haven’t allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards since Week 9. Defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce continue to receive excellent grades from Pro Football Focus as they lead the team’s interior resistance.

CHARGERS RUSH DEFENSE: The Chargers allow the ninth-fewest yards per game and the 13th-fewest yards per carry in the league and have easily the best run defense the Ravens have faced since Jackson took over the offense. They’ve held three of their last four opponents to fewer than 70 yards rushing. Rookie safety Derwin James has been excellent against the run and leads the team in tackles.

EDGE: Ravens

***

RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens allow the fewest yards per attempt in the league. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey played a brilliant game against the Buccaneers with an interception and a tackle for loss. Safety Tony Jefferson also played well in his return from an ankle injury. The Ravens hit Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston just twice but held the Buccaneers to a season-low 156 passing yards. They’ve held six opponents to fewer than 200 passing yards.

CHARGERS PASS DEFENSE: The Chargers are solid against the pass as well, ranking ninth in the league in fewest yards allowed per attempt and eighth in fewest yards allowed per game. James has been excellent in coverage, and Desmond King II has been the top-graded cornerback in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Defensive end Melvin Ingram leads the Chargers with seven sacks.

EDGE: Ravens

***

Advertisement

Teams that were super earlier this season like Kansas City, New Orleans, the Los Angeles Rams and even the New England Patriots now appear vulnerable and beatable.

RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Cyrus Jones made his first bad mistake as a returner when he muffed a punt and gave the Buccaneers the ball on the Ravens’ 14-yard line. Justin Tucker has made 28 of 30 field-goal attempts. Sam Koch is tied for 10th in the league with 25 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.

CHARGERS SPECIAL TEAMS: This is the weakest area for the Chargers. Michael Badgley has been solid since taking over as the team’s kicker, making 14 of 15 field-goal attempts. King has averaged 13.6 yards and scored a touchdown on 21 punt returns. Donnie Jones has been one of the least effective punters in the league with a net average of 37.8 yards.

EDGE: Ravens

***

RAVENS INTANGIBLES: The Ravens know they have to win to keep their inside track to the playoffs, and they could be eliminated by Sunday evening if they lose. They’re 3-4 on the road this season and 2-3 against teams that currently have winning records. They pushed the AFC-leading Kansas City Chiefs to overtime the last time they played on the road.

CHARGERS INTANGIBLES: The Chargers are rolling, having won 10 of their last 11 games, and they have a chance to steal the AFC West and home-field advantage from the Chiefs. They last played on Thursday, Dec. 13, so they’ll have three additional days of rest against the Ravens, who also have to make a cross-country trip.

EDGE: Chargers

***

PREDICTION: The Chargers are at home, tied for the AFC’s best record and sitting on three extra days’ rest. They’re led by one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Rivers and also play solid defense. But look a little closer, and teams such as the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos have established a blueprint for playing well in Los Angeles using ball control and tight defense. The Ravens will use that formula to upset the Chargers, 23-21, and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement