It’s the Ravens v. the Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens are 2 1/2 to 3 point favorites with the over/under point total set at 52. How does the RSR staff see this one playing out?
The Ravens are (4-1) yet the argument could be made that they could easily be (1-4) or even (5-0). But to their credit, the team possesses a collective resolve and is learning how to win when they don’t play their best four quarters. And that’s a great team character trait and one that will bode well for them in the postseason.
This week the Ravens get a visit from the (4-1) Los Angeles Chargers who field arguably the league’s hottest quarterback. Justin Herbert has been terrific when the team needs a play, particularly on third and long. With an arm that Wink Martindale describes as one that could “throw a strawberry through a battleship”, Herbert will a formidable challenge on par with the explosive Kansas City Chiefs.
After watching the Ravens game tape from Monday Night, the Chargers have to be licking their collective chops, seeing how Wink’s inside backers and Anthony Averett struggle. They’ll have their hands full with Austin Ekeler and Jared Cook – and of course Mike Williams, Keenan Allen and a very stout offensive front.
The Ravens are coming off a Monday Night high that still has the town abuzz and you have to wonder if a letdown lies just beyond the horizon.
• The Ravens have better success on the ground with 130 yards rushing on 22 carries but they’ll be forced to reluctantly abandon the run in the fourth quarter.
• Justin Herbert throws for four scores and 350 yards.
• Ekeler gets over 125 yards from scrimmage and hits pay dirt twice.
• Joey Bosa is menacing in the fourth quarter and sacks Lamar twice.
The Ravens will hang tough as that is their M.O. but this week, despite their 17-4 record against West Coast teams at The Bank under John Harbaugh, Lamar & Co. just won’t have enough in the tank to overcome the struggles of their ailing, 24th-ranked defense.
Chargers 34 Ravens 27
It wouldn’t be entirely shocking if the Ravens gave up 400 yards passing to Justin Herbert this weekend. It also wouldn’t surprise if they generated three picks against a young quarterback with their hard-to-prepare-for defense. Such is the life of trying to predict what we will see from the Ravens defense this season.
So, let’s get crazy:
— Herbert will throw for 330 yards and two interceptions. He will also complete less than 60 percent of his passes.
— Austin Ekeler will be his leading receiver, gaining 83 yards on 10 catches.
— The Ravens run gain will regain some traction, grinding out 160 yards.
— James Proche will pull in a 35-yard touchdown pass.
— Lamar Jackson will generate 410 total yards.
— Chuck Clark with a pick and two tackles for loss.
Ravens 34 Chargers 32
With the way this current crop of Cardiac Kid Ravens plays, is there any doubt there will be another this week?
Justin Herbert is a stud, granted. With the way Jonathan Taylor and De’Andre Swift treated this defense, Austin Ekeler will surely feast. Likewise, Mike Evans has to be licking his chops staring across at the recently-abused Anthony Averett.
Still, the issue of West Coast teams traveling to the East Coast for 1 PM games is a real phenomenon.
Also a real phenomenon? Lamar Jackson, who finds Rashod Bateman for his first career TD from 18 yards out with under 30 seconds to play to complete the latest game that’s sure to take years off our lives.
Hold onto your butts.
Ravens 38 Chargers 35
This will be the team’s biggest test since Week 2. After Sunday, we’ll know if the Ravens are among the AFC elite or just a step below that tier.
— The Chargers defense ranks dead last in rush defense this season, allowing 5.6 yards per attempt. I think this could be the game where the Ravens run game finally gets it going. They’re starting to figure out and settle into how they want to divide up snaps and touches. I think Latavius Murray has his best game as a Raven, finishing with over 100 yards on the ground.
— The Ravens struggled with Jonathan Taylor last week and face the equally good, if not better, Austin Ekeler. He’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield where Taylor gashed them.
— It’ll be interesting to see how Anthony Averett bounces back after a pitiful game last week. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easier with Mike Williams coming up. Williams primarily lines up on Averett’s side of the field and is 5th in the NFL in receiving yards and first in touchdowns. I don’t see Williams slowing down, finishing with close to 100 yards and a score, leading to more Averett questions.
— No prediction here, but Justin Herbert vs. Lamar Jackson is easily the best quarterback matchup of the weekend. Young QBs historically struggle when they come to Baltimore, but Herbert is different from most young signal callers.
Hammer the 52 over/under. Won’t be seeing a lot of defense in this one.
Chargers 31 Ravens 27
The Chargers, like the Ravens, are off to a 4-1 start. They are coming off a thrilling win vs the Browns. In that game, Chargers QB Justin Herbert for almost 400 yards, 4 TDs and no picks.
The Chargers are 11th in DVOA (Ravens are 8th). The offense is ranked in the top 10, the defense is 18th and special teams is 29th. Obviously this is one area where the Ravens hope to take advantage. Unfortunately for the Ravens, they are 22nd in defensive DVOA and coming off a game where the Chargers went up and down the field on the Browns, it’s not the best timing for the Ravens defense to be facing them, especially after the game they just had vs the Colts.
The Browns ran up and down the field on the Chargers but can the Ravens do it? Their RBs just lack the explosion and elusiveness, outside of maybe Ty’Son Williams, especially compared to the Browns RBs. I’m sure Lamar can take advantage of it but can the rest of them? Keeping the ball out of Herbert’s hands will be key.
The status of Sammy Watkins is up in the air but it sounds like Rashod Bateman will make his season debut. It will likely take time to integrate him into the offense but it will still be interesting to see what kind of impact he has.
This figures to be a high scoring game and it may be a last team who has the ball wins type scenario. If it comes down to field goals, we should have the advantage.
End of the day, I don’t think I trust the Ravens defense make enough stops.
I’m going with the Chargers.
Chargers 38 Ravens 31
I’ll preface my prediction by saying this: the level of concern I have for our defense facing Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler is DEFCON 1 after what we saw on Monday Night. Unless we can count on Lamar typing in some cheat codes and going Super Saiyan again, my hopes are not overly high. Still, the Browns pestered LA all game last week, and that’s a team that has enough stylistic similarities that I think we can keep this thing close (that and the fact that the Ravens seem intent on making every game a heart attack). Here’s what I’m looking for:
— The Chargers seem to have finally solidified their O-line and have surrendered only two sacks each of the last two games. That changes against the Ravens. Wink helps inspire some confidence in a struggling Patrick Queen by shifting his focus off of the coverage game into rushing the passer, and he hits pay dirt with a sack. Odafe Oweh continues his impressive start and adds a sack as well.
— Following a game where a turnover was nearly a back-breaker, the coaching staff will have reinforced a message of paramount importance: take care of the football. Baltimore doesn’t commit a turnover in this one.
— This one would need several factors to come to fruition, but hey, they’re called Bold Predictions for a reason. With Sammy Watkins ailing, Rashod Bateman may finally get the green light and make his season debut. The possibility exists that they’d keep him on a limited snap basis and ease him into the action, but I think he’s going to seize his moment. Hollywood has shown tons of flash so far this season (the Detroit game being the notable exception), and he’ll be getting lots of attention from LA’s defense. With the coverage shifting more toward Andrews and Hollywood, get ready to see why Baltimore loved Bateman as a prospect. He goes five catches for 70+ yards and a TD. Again, this is all assuming he’s good to go and can eat up some yardage with Watkins out.
Expect a shootout.
Chargers 42 Ravens 31
This should be good.
Wink Martindale historically very good against young QBs, so Justin Herbert will be put to the test.
Odafe Oweh might be in for a long day. Rashawn Slater is looking like one of the best offensive tackles in football this far this season. The Chargers in general have a very strong O-Line so I don’t think the pass rush has a very good day.
The secondary will bounce back this week. I think last week was a fluke by Anthony Averett, and I think he bounces back.
Moving to the offense, the Chargers are allowing the most rushing yards per game in the NFL. Not exactly a recipe for success against a Lamar Jackson and Greg Roman Offense.
Expect a more “Raven-style” offense this week with more running of the football. More so, running of the football from people that aren’t named Lamar Jackson. I’ve been saying for the last few games that there wouldn’t be a bell cow emerge as Ravens running back, and I’ve been right.
This week, that will change. Someone will have a good game running the football and prove to be the number 1 for this year.
Hollywood lets the weird Bart Scott takes fuel him en route to another 100 yard game. He’ll catch two touchdowns as well.
Check back at the other games so far. I’ve been on a roll, so much so that I want to be referred to only as Dackstradamus.
Ravens 30 Chargers 20
The Ravens’ defense had a terrible game on Monday night and they get no reprieve this week against Justin Herbert. He may hang 70 on the Ravens and their 29th ranked pass defense if Baltimore plays as they did against the Colts. Although I’m being facetious, the truth is, the Ravens need to get A LOT better on all levels of their defense if they want to make a run at a Lombardi in 2021/22.
We’ve all watched the Ravens and the NFL enough to know that things change week to week. With this team, that seems more realistic than ever so it would be a lie for me to sit here and tell you what you’re going to get this week. Based off the last few games, it’s hard for me to pick the Ravens in this spot. They’re coming off an emotional Monday night game where their defense was exposed and Herbert has to be licking his chops watching tape of Anthony Averett “try” to cover anybody with a horseshoe on their helmet.
From a betting perspective, I’m going to stay far, far away from this game. If you force me, I do like the Chargers in this spot to eek out a close win against the Ravens. I don’t think Super Lamar will be able to come to the rescue again in Week 5.
Chargers 27 Ravens 24
The Ravens will face a red hot Chargers team led by Justin Herbert and his plethora of dangerous offensive weapons such as Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen. After a game in which Carson Wentz carved up the Ravens defense, it’s hard to have confidence that they can slow down the Chargers. On the Chargers defensive side of the ball they also offer challenges such as edge rusher Joey Bosa and chess piece Derwin James. The biggest concern will be the Ravens defense. I expect Wink to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Herbert to get him out of sorts. The missed tackles cannot continue against a team like this or they will have no chance.
— Austin Ekeler will pick up where Jonathan Taylor left off last week with over 120 yards, most of them as a receiver with 1 touchdown.
— Justin Herbert will throw for over 300 yards with 3 touchdown passes and 1 rushing touchdown.
— The Ravens inside linebackers will continue to struggle with both missed tackles and in coverage.
— Odafe Oweh will get another sack and forced fumble.
— Justin Houston will inch closer to his 100th career sack with one making it a total of 99.5
— Lamar Jackson will continue to do MVP things with 325 passing yards and 70 rushing yards with 3 touchdown passes and 1 rushing touchdown.
— Andrews production will be slowed down due to Derwin James and be held to 3 catches for 40 yards.
— Hollywood Brown will have over 100 yards and 1 touchdown.
Chargers 34 Ravens 31