Ravens at Chargers: 3 Key Matchups

How the Saturday night game at StubHub Center will be won

The Chargers are in the playoffs. The Ravens are trying to join them. The Chargers could get the #1 seed in the AFC Playoffs … or the 5th seed. The Ravens could win the AFC North division title … or miss the post-season completely.

So yeah, there’s a lot riding on Saturday night’s meeting, the first prime time regular season game ever played at the diminutive StubHub Center. Here are the three key matchups that will determine who walks away a winner:

Eric Weddle vs. Philip Rivers

This is gonna be fun to watch. For nearly a decade Rivers and Weddle played a cat-and-mouse game during San Diego Chargers practices calling out across the line of scrimmage what the other guy was trying to do. Two of the most cerebral football players of this era, the give and take made both of them better at their craft because they’d talk about what they saw and tendencies they picked up on. To this day the two Pro Bowlers are close friends … but is their familiarity good or bad?

Rivers acknowledged this week that both guys know that the other guy knows what they know so he can’t over-think things. Both guys say they’re going against a very good unit as a whole (Baltimore has the NFL’s top scoring defense while the Chargers own the league’s 4th-highest scoring offense) and that’s true. But for some reason I think one of them is going to be able to pull a trick on the other and the guy who gets away with the deception will give his team the edge.

Lamar Jackson vs. Chargers Edge Defenders

Baltimore is 4-1 since Jackson took over for the injured Joe Flacco and in all their games the Ravens have rushed for at least 190 yards. This kid is mobile and dynamic and could not be any more different than Rivers.

In 210 career games (206 starts) Philip Rivers has rushed for 579 yards and three touchdowns. In 14 career games (five starts) Jackson has rushed for 566 yards and three touchdowns. I know, Rivers is the FAR superior passer but I bring that stat up because the best way to keep Rivers and his offense off the scoreboard is to keep them off the field. Jackson’s improvisational ability and athleticism extending drives and contributing to a high-volume ground game would do just that. The guys who set the edge of the Chargers defense, and it could be someone different every play, are going to have to stay disciplined and not allow Jackson to scramble to the outside or they’re going to have a very long night.

Justin Tucker vs. Michael Badgley

I would be SHOCKED if this game was a blowout by either side. Odds are it’s going to be close and close games are all too often decided by kickers. Tucker is one of the best in NFL history. Badgley is a rookie who seems to have stabilized the most caustic kicking situation in the league. Tucker has been there, done that, time and time again. Badgley hit a game-winner at the buzzer in Pittsburgh (on the 3rd try) and nailed four kicks against Cincinnati so the potential is there. If one of these guys blinks it will very likely cost his team the game.

Derek’s Prediction

The Chargers are the more talented team but Baltimore has more to play for. Plus the Bolts are simply not the same team in Carson that they are on the road. Aside from a 45-10 blowout of a truly horrific Cardinals team they lost to the Chiefs and Broncos, looked uninspired against the bad Bengals and worse Raiders, and nearly let one slip away to the 3-win 49ers. The Bolts are 4-3 in Los Angeles County and 7-0 away from it. This week the team with the most fans in Carson wins.

Derek’s prediction: Ravens 22, Chargers 20

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