Some sports name three stars of the game after the game. I'll do that one better: I'm going to name them before the Ravens even play. These will be the three stars of the game when the Ravens host the San Diego Chargers in a game rich with playoff implications in Week 13.
1. Running back Justin Forsett
This space has been home to many Ravens running backs this year, and many of them haven't even played that particular day. It's Forsett who has been and will continue to be the Ravens' go-to back, with his 903 rushing yards entering Week 13, the third-highest total in the league. San Diego is a middle-of-the-pack rushing defense, allowing over 100 yards per game this year.
The Ravens have topped that total in eight of 11 games, and Monday's win over the New Orleans Saints showed that the team emerged from the bye prepared to run the ball more than ever. Even against a team that could turn a game into a shootout, offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak stayed the course and ran the ball almost without resistance 32 times on Monday. This is another possible shootout game, since San Diego has a passing attack that could slice and dice the Ravens' secondary. But the Ravens will use Forsett to bleed the clock, steadily pick up first downs, and eventually scamper into the end zone. Forsett is just 97 yards away from 1,000, and should blow past that Sunday, with one rushing touchdown and his first touchdown reception of the year, as well.
Last year's rookie sensation didn't score until late October, but Allen has become a more involved part of the passing game with quarterback Philip Rivers. In San Diego's last game — a battle with the St. Louis Rams, who boast a comparable pass rush and defense to the Ravens — Allen was a frequent target. He caught six passes on eight throws for 108 yards and a touchdown, and both of those numbers could have been higher had he not lost a pair of fumbles in the process. Allen will have some atoning to do, and what better defense to do it against than the Ravens, who gave up 420 yards last week and made Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills look like a star.
Allen, at 6-feet-2, isn't the kind of towering deep threat that has given the Ravens trouble in the past, but made big plays last season that could give the Ravens fits. His longest catch of the year, for just 35 yards, came last week against the Rams. He could double that on one catch Sunday, and a second-straight 100 yard performance with a touchdown is probably the conservative estimate for Allen.
3. Wide receiver-kick returner Jacoby Jones
Jones broke his kick return hex against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a 108-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, erasing a half-season's worth of doubts about his decision-making and ball-handling in those crucial kick return roles. It's true that Jones had a spell when he wasn't the preferred punt returner after a couple of potentially costly fumbles, but the Ravens have maintained he's among the league's best returners and it finally showed in Week 9.
But this could be another strong game for Jones in front of what's been an adoring home crowd, his early-season struggles notwithstanding. Chargers kicker Nick Novak has had 45 kicks returned this year, most in the league, and his 17.9 percent touchback percentage is lowest in the league. That means plenty of opportunities for the Ravens to block for Jones, and plenty of opportunities for him to bring one back.
Jones is a nonfactor in the offense, with just a handful of snaps in the last few games, but consider this the game when Jones rewards both himself and the Ravens' special teams unit for a season's worth of work with either a kick return or punt return for a touchdown that sparks the Ravens.