Observations From the Cheap Seats
It’s only natural that Ravens fans would applaud national pundits and former players who pick Lamar Jackson & Co to beat the Chargers and throw shade on those who predict Los Angeles (I know it still sounds weird) to end the Ravens season. Count former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer among those who don’t expect the Ravens to contend for The Lombardi Trophy.
“Every team has a legit shot to be playing in the Super Bowl other than maybe Baltimore. I think that Baltimore has the least amount of weapons and expertise and experience. They’re a great team, they’re a great defense, they run the ball really well but at some point you’ve got to win the game from inside the pocket. At some point you’re going to be third-and-13, third-and-9 and you have to throw the ball down the field. All of those teams with the exception of Baltimore, they’re all dangerous.”
Objectively speaking, Palmer has a point and that’s why winning first down is crucial to the Ravens success on offense. That said, Jackson is a different breed of quarterback, one that modern defenses aren’t really equipped to handle. The key is to force Jackson into mistakes but if opponents fail, the edge goes to the Ravens. Palmer, once a prototypical pocket passer, can’t see the game through Lamar’s eyes and consequently he dismisses the Ravens chances.
But he’s wrong!
The Chargers will go all-in to stop the Jackson-led rushing attack on Sunday, and relatively speaking they did exactly that two weeks ago. With Lamar at the helm over the past 7 games, the Ravens have averaged 230 yards rushing. Not including the Chargers game or the OT game in KC the Ravens have possessed the ball on average, 37:40. Against the Chargers the Ravens held the ball for 31:25. But the Chargers did that with the help of starting linebacker Jatavis Brown (8 tackles) and run-stuffing DT Brandon Mebane (6 tackles). Both will miss Sunday’s game.
The defense the Chargers will send out to defend Jackson with will be light. It would behoove the Ravens to use their heavyweights to pound away INSIDE the tackles and not let the Chargers fast defense beat the slower Ravens offense at the perimeter. Something else to keep in mind when the Ravens host the Chargers. That field where the teams last played in LA, StubHub Center, looked like a cow pasture after a week of rain. The track will be much faster in Baltimore and winds could be a factor. A 12 to 15 MPH breeze is forecasted.
There’s No Joe in Team
While perusing our forums, social media and comments beneath our articles here at RSR, I’m borderline shocked by the number of so-called fans who predict gloom and doom for Lamar and the Ravens on Sunday, just because it fits their narrative that Joe Flacco should start. Shouldn’t it all be about the team? What happened to the only thing that matters is the “W”, that there’s no “I” in team?
No one knows the team and its personnel better than the coaching staff and when they collectively came together to re-tool their approach with Lamar as the starter during the bye, it was all about winning. Then, sporting a (4-5) record and with their futures in doubt, the staff made a commitment to Lamar because THAT, in their minds, was the best way to save the season and their jobs.
And they were right!
The 12th Man
Excitement has returned to The Bank and for most of the game against the Browns, the crowd was in full throat. The volume was duly noted this week by the players and coaching staff. The Ravens will need you again on Sunday. Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Philip Rivers will likely try and spread the field against the Ravens to force one-on-one matchups. I expect them to empty the backfield and attack the seams just as the Browns did.
Rivers will look to get the ball out quickly given the fact that the Chargers start the lowest-graded guard and tackle in pass protection this season per PFF. Left guard Dan Feeney has allowed eight sacks and eight more hits, while right tackle Sam Tevi has given up eight sacks and 12 hits. So, if the Chargers do spread and empty while the Ravens are disguising their coverages, Rivers may need to change protections pre-snap or even route combinations. If his teammates can’t hear him, advantage Ravens. Advantage 12th man!
NFL Network GMFB’s Peter Schrager thinks the crowd will bring it!
“Philip Rivers is going up against the number 1 defense in the NFL. He’s also facing the most hostile environment he’s seen all season. Those fans are going to be nuts.” pic.twitter.com/sJOsKtwt4c
— GMFB (@gmfb) January 4, 2019
If the need to distract Rivers doesn’t inspire you enough to shred your vocal chords at The Bank, perhaps this might. Ed Reed will be the team’s honorary captain and you just know that he’ll be featured on the video boards during the game, ideally when the Chargers have the ball. (Right Mr. Scoreboard Operator?)
Joe v. Lamar
Obviously the two are polar opposites and that puts pressure on the rest of the squad and the coaching staff to adapt in the event of change. Mission accomplished. For comparative purposes I thought I’d take a look at what Joe and Lamar have been able to put up statistically this season.
It’s interesting, almost shocking that Lamar has been sacked the same number of times, in 2 fewer games than Joe given his extreme mobility, particularly since Flacco has attempted 209 more passes than Jackson. This could be attributed to several things, among them inaccuracy in Lamar’s drop backs, holding the ball too long and his inability to counter deceptive blitzes at the LOS.
Jim Rome loves some Lamar Jackson
Robert Klemko from SI joined Jim Rome this week to talk about Lamar, present and future…
Odds & Ends
We’ve been hearing over and over how the Chargers will adjust on offense and defense and that somehow puts the Ravens at a disadvantage. Isn’t the Ravens coaching staff capable of adjusting too? And it’s not as if Lamar went off two weeks ago. He had 13 carries for 39 yards. How much better can the Chargers defend him? … During his last 3 starts Philip Rivers has thrown 6 picks against 3 TD’s. Add it up and his passer rating during his last 3 contests sits at 68.2…Rivers is (4-5) in 9 playoff starts with 11 TD’s and 9 INT’s producing a 85.2 passer rating…At halftime American Authors will perform. Ravens fans will be hoping that Sunday is the best day of their lives.
So in my last OFTCS I mentioned that I was heading to my friend Pat Schroeder’s place to listen to the 50th Anniversary re-release of The Beatles White Album. It’s fantastic! The sound quality is superb! There is instrumentation that pops through that was masked in the original release by what would now be considered antiquated recording equipment. Then, there are extras such as a beautifully bound booklet that in many ways takes you into the Abbey Road Studios plus there are demo takes recorded at George Harrison’s home that provide a glimpse into the creative process of the band.
And speaking of music, have you heard about Fanimal Radio. We feature a channel called Music Fanimal. On Music Fanimal we feature local musical talents. The latest podcast, episode 11 features Ed Neenan. Ed describes his influences, the Ravens and the creative process of songwriting. He plays 3 songs: Rocket Man from Elton John (11:37 mark from the video below), I Started a Joke, The BeeGees (26:58 mark) and an award-winning original, Rabbit Hole (45:37 mark).
My Prediction: Ravens 27, Chargers 21