By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens face their most interesting test since the Kansas City Chiefs came into town. The Ravens have to battle the 4-1 Los Angeles Chargers team that just took down the Cleveland Browns 47-42. The Ravens have their hands full and yet I’m optimistic about this game. Let’s talk about it. Here are four predictions and a score for this game:
1. The Ravens keep the Chargers under 30 points:
Just about everyone in the football world is expecting a barnburner of a game. The Chargers are averaging 28.4 points per game. They aren’t going to score 47 every week. They’re hot this season but it’s not a volcano eruption that can’t be stopped. The Chargers opened the season with 20 points over the Washington Football Team. This looks less impressive each week. Washington’s defense isn’t what it was expected to be.
The Dallas Cowboys held the Chargers to 17 points in the second game of the season for Los Angeles. The Chargers put up 30 to beat the Chiefs and 28 against the Raiders. There is a thing called regression to the mean, the Chargers are a west coast team playing at 1:00 pm in Baltimore, and Don Martindale has a ton of my trust. Do I think the Ravens shut the Chargers down completely? No, this one is going to be tough. I just don’t see a circus show where Justin Herbert has five or six touchdowns every time you blink. The Chargers are good… but relax guys. This is just as big a test for Los Angeles as it is for Baltimore.
2. Austin Ekeler gives Ravens linebackers some more humble pie:
The Chargers offense is going to put on a show. I predicted they would score under 30 points. If that’s where I am setting the bar, you already know the defense will give you things to be frustrated about in this one. The biggest problem the Ravens have had is the play of their inside linebackers. The biggest weapon the Chargers have against this is Austin Ekeler.
Patrick Queen has been awful in pass coverage and it isn’t Malik Harrison‘s forte either. Ekeler has 23 receptions on 25 targets this season. He’s a deadly efficient weapon in the passing game. He has three games with over 50 yards receiving, which is a nice contribution from a running back. If you have Ekeler in a PPR Fantasy Football league, it’s easy money this week.
There will be at least a couple of Chargers drives that will be continued by this problem the Ravens have defensively. Look for Ekeler to be the safety valve that allows Justin Herbert to manage a fairly impressive game for the Chargers.
3. Lamar Jackson makes another case for his second MVP award:
A comeback against the Chiefs…Check! A comeback against the Colts… Check! Going head to head against Justin Herbert and getting the win… If Jackson checks that off, he’s practically cruising towards the MVP award. Let’s look at Jackson’s recent work. Against the Colts he had the franchise record for passing yards in a game with 442. He made a lot of history is a good summation of it. Against the Broncos he had over 300 yards. Jackson is feeling it as a passer.
Can you imagine how badly Jackson wants this game? Do you remember the 2018 Wild Card game? Jackson does. Do you remember that the Chargers were the team that asked Jackson to consider playing wide receiver before the 2018 NFL Draft? Jackson does. The rightful MVP of the NFL wants this game and I doubt there will be a human more prepared for a moment than Jackson is for this game.
Give me Jackson to have 275 yards passing with three touchdowns. Let’s add 100 yards on the ground while we’re at it.
4. Rashod Bateman gets his first touchdown in his first game:
Guess who’s coming back into the Ravens offense? Rashod Bateman is prepared to play in his first game with the Baltimore Ravens. Bateman is an ultra-talented receiver who will be mixed in lightly. I think the Ravens are itching to see him play as much as the fans are. Look for Jackson to get Bateman involved in the red zone; that’s where Bateman’s traits can shine the brightest.
I doubt Bateman will have a monster game. It wouldn’t be shocking if he only got a few targets. I just don’t think the rookie wide receiver needs much of a chance. If he gets even a bit of a chance he’s going to show off. I admit this is more of a fun prediction than anything else. I’m going with it.
Now a score: Ravens win 31-28
I’m sorry if you wanted your heart to get some rest this Sunday. It’s going to beat out of your shirt and if the Ravens win, it’ll come the hard way per usual. I just see a Ravens team that’s harder to beat in Baltimore than people realize.
I see a team that keeps finding a way, and a team that has the most valuable player, Lamar Jackson. This one is either going to be amazing or horrible and there’s no in-between. I’ll go with amazing on this Purple Friday because every time I’ve doubted the Ravens they pulled through.