The Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens are both coming off emotional victories from the previous week. On Sunday afternoon, they face each other in a game that could be a preview of the AFC championship game. The Chargers survived a shootout with the Cleveland Browns while Baltimore came from behind in overtime to take down the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football. Both franchises are now witnessing stellar production at the quarterback position. Chargers QB Justin Herbert has noticed the league by taking command of the Chargers’ offense dating back to 2020.
Herbert’s growth as an efficient passer has not been hindered despite the team going into an entirely different offense. As for the quarterback on the other side Lamar Jackson, he is playing as if he is on the verge of winning another league’s Most Valuable Player award. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner had the best performance as a passer when he threw for over 400 yards and four touchdowns against the Indianapolis Colts.
He would finish the night with a record-setting performance. Jackson became the first quarterback in the league to complete 85% of his passes in a 400-yard game. He became the first player in NFL history with 400 yards passing; four touchdown passes, no interceptions, and 50 yards rushing. He also had the highest completion rate in a 40-pass game in NFL history (86% with 37-of-43 attempts). Let’s take a look at the keys to the game for both football teams.
From an offensive standpoint, this is the best that the Ravens have looked with Jackson under center. Baltimore is currently ranked second in the league in total offense (2,203), first in total yards a game (440.6), and sixth in passing (291.8). The Ravens have achieved those rankings without having players such as JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Both players were lost for the remainder of the season, with injuries suffered during the preseason.
Despite losing both Dobbins and Edwards, the Ravens rushing attack has not taken a step back. Baltimore is currently averaging 148.8 yards a game. Now, tailbacks Letavious Murray, Devonte Freeman, and Ty Williams are splitting carries among each other. Jackson’s role as a rusher has played a considerable part in Baltimore’s dominance in the running game.
Baltimore’s rushing attack against the Los Angeles Chargers must exploit their inability to defend against the run. Currently, their opponents are averaging 157.6 yards a game. A simple formula that would allow Baltimore to win Sunday’s game is to run the football and aggressively control the possession time. They cannot let a red-hot Justin Herbert have ample opportunities to pick apart a Ravens secondary that is among the league’s worst against defending the pass.
Throughout the years, specific teams situated on the West Coast have struggled in games that are played in the early afternoon kickoff slot. Will the Chargers suffer the same fate against Baltimore? The outcome will depend on how Los Angeles decides to attack Baltimore’s defense in the earlier phases of Sunday’s game. To keep Lamar Jackson from having a significant impact, the Chargers must utilize a balanced approach on offense.
Running back, Austin Eckler needs to be put in situations where he can pose mismatch issues for a Ravens defense that has struggled against the pass. If Baltimore’s defense cannot make proper adjustments while defending Herbert and the rest of the Chargers’ offense, they will win this game with no difficulty.
The game between the Chargers and Ravens will most likely come down to the team that will have it last. On Sunday, that team will be Baltimore. I do not believe that Los Angeles can effectively slow down Lamar Jackson for all four quarters. He will find a way to make in-game adjustments and be successful. Ravens win by a field goal.