By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have a big game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. This is a battle between two MVP candidates in Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert. It’s a showdown of two 4-1 teams and it could have major implications when we start looking at the playoff picture down the road. Say what you will about the momentum the Chargers are coming into this game with, this is a big test for both teams.
Baltimore Ravens offense:
The first thing that has to happen is that the Ravens have to find some success with the ground game. The Chargers have a good pass rush and more importantly a good secondary. This isn’t the game to see if Jackson can have another 400-yard outing as a passer. The Ravens need to get back to some sort of balance.
The Chargers have the sixth-best passing defense in the NFL. They average only 214.2 passing yards allowed per game. Joey Bosa is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Derwin James and Nasir Adderly are top-shelf safeties who can make a difference. Other than maybe the Denver Broncos, this is the best defense the Ravens have been matched up with this season.
The Ravens don’t have to get back to their dominant ways on the ground. I’m not looking for 200 yards from the run game here, right now that doesn’t even seem possible. What I’m calling for is the running backs to at least do their fair share in this game. If the Ravens rush for over 100 yards, the running backs need to contribute at least half of those yards.
Ben Powers needs to step up as a run blocker. The Ravens need to be able to run inside and they have to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. If the Ravens could get a carbon copy performance of the offensive line from the Chiefs game, that would be huge. That was the one week the offensive line put it all together. This game is going to be a shootout. The Ravens need to help Jackson to get the win.
Defensively, the Ravens have to get to Justin Herbert. This is a game where Don Martindale has to balance aggression with sensibility. He can’t just call all the dogs on Herbert. He also can’t sit back and have this be the death of 1,000 cuts. It’s a tough position to be in. Martindale has to feel out the game and send pressure at the right moments.
The Ravens need a big day from their pass rushers in this game. Odafe Oweh and Justin Houston have to make life easier for Martindale. They don’t have to rack up a ton of sacks, but they must get pressures and impact plays. Rashawn Slater is a very impressive rookie left tackle from Northwestern. He’s still a rookie. The Ravens may be able to exploit his inexperience. Right tackle is a much weaker point for the Chargers. This could be the path to getting to Herbert.
The secondary is going to be under a lot of stress. Mike Williams is having a big season and Keenan Allen is an impressive wide receiver as always. Don’t rule out Jalen Guyton and Jared Cook as weapons that can make an impact. Austin Ekeler is a matchup nightmare for the Ravens and there is no getting around that.
The key here is to bend but don’t break. The Ravens are going to give up some plays. Martindale is going to be forced into playing more zone and keeping things in front of him.
The Baltimore Ravens bottom line:
There are going to be times where the Ravens defense gives up a string of first downs and it will seem like they can’t stop Los Angeles. The key is coming up with stops in the red zone and creating a turnover or two.
The Ravens need to keep pace with the Chargers’ offense. This isn’t a game where you can get away with an epic comeback. There are games where you just have to see who gets the ball last, and there are games where you just have to see which offenses crack first. This game could be either one of those. The pressure is heavily on the offense. Jackson can’t give up the ball, and the defense needs to be opportunistic when it can be.