Baltimore Ravens at L.A. Chargers
When: 8:20 PM ET, Saturday, December 22, 2018
Where: StubHub Center, Carson, California
Preview for (@DigSportsDesk) by Gracenote
CARSON – The Los Angeles Chargers have already clinched a spot in the postseason but they have loftier goals in mind — namely, the chance to secure the top overall seed and earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Chargers still have to overtake division rival Kansas City but cannot afford a misstep against the visiting Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.
Los Angeles punched its ticket to the playoffs in dramatic fashion, erasing a two-touchdown deficit in the final four minutes for a 29-28 road win over the Chiefs. Quarterback Philip Rivers, one of an NFL-high seven Pro Bowl selections for the Chargers, said his team faces a “heck of a challenge” against the top-ranked defense of the Ravens, who hold the tiebreaker over two other teams for the second wild card in the AFC. Baltimore has won four of five since rookie Lamar Jackson took over as the starting quarterback — the only loss coming in overtime at Kansas City — but the Ravens know what they are up against in Rivers and Co. “Philip is probably one of the smartest, if not — he’s right in the category with the top two or three guys (in terms of) dissecting the defense, playing the chess game,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said of Rivers. “He really finds the weakness and he’s not afraid to take chances.”
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network. LINE: Chargers -4.5. O/U: 43.5
ABOUT THE RAVENS (8-6): Jackson has yet to throw for more than 178 yards in either of his five starts but he has double-digit rushes in each one to help Baltimore become the first team since the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1976 to rush for at least 190 yards in five consecutive games. Rookie Gus Jackson had 15 carries on the season until Jackson moved into the starting lineup but has led the punishing ground game with three 100-yard performances during the 4-1 run. Willie Snead has emerged as Jackson’s favorite target with five catches in three of the past five contests, but the defense will be in the spotlight Sunday. The Ravens lead the league in fewest points (18.1) and fewest overall yards (290.2) and are third against the pass (202.6).
ABOUT THE CHARGERS (11-3): Los Angeles made it four straight wins and 10 of 11 despite an injury to top receiver Keenan Allen and the absence of top running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. Gordon, expected to return to the lineup after sitting out the past three games due to a sprained MCL, has rushed for 802 yards and nine touchdowns while snagging 44 receptions for four more scores. Allen is looming as a game-time decision, but 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams scored three touchdowns on a season-high seven receptions against Kansas City to earn AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. While Rivers is having an MVP season with 31 touchdowns and eight interceptions, the ninth-ranked run defense (103.7) yards will have to contain Jackson.
1. Rivers has passed for 2,199 yards with 16 TDs in seven home games this season.
2. Jackson has rushed for at least 65 yards in each of his five starts.
3. Chargers Pro Bowl DE Melvin Ingram needs three sacks to reach double digits for the third time in four seasons.