The Ravens beat the Chargers 22-11 in Los Angeles Dec. 22, and that game was key towards the Ravens winning the AFC North and qualifying for the playoffs. The stakes are higher in the rematch as the playoffs begin in Baltimore. This is by far the hardest match-up to grade, which is why this game is getting a bit more run as I churn through my 2019 AFC Wild Card betting previews.
NFL PLAYOFFS – AFC WILD CARD
Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
Sunday, January 6th – M&T Bank Stadium – 1:05pm ET
Odds: Baltimore -2.5 (41.5)
The Chargers were road warriors this season going 7-1 SU/ATS. Led by QB Philip Rivers performances in one of his best seasons over a 15-year career, the Chargers went 12-4 and tied for the second best record in football. But LA hits the road for the opening wild card round and will have to slow the Ravens’ now league-best rushing attack with QB Lamar Jackson playing a pivotal role in the run game.
Perhaps the more difficult task will be to dent the Ravens’ league-best defense that allowed just 292.9 points per game at 4.8 yards per play and 17.9 points per game. The Chargers could only muster 198 total yards in the Dec. 22 meeting against the Ravens. Rivers was sacked four times, threw two interceptions, and passed for a season-low 4.9 yards per average with just 181 yards.
The coach and quarterback combinations present a dilemma. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is one of the best and has plenty of playoff experience as well. Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has performed well since taking over as starter, but lacks proven passing skills and any playoff experience. He’s also had some turnover troubles which would not surprise if they emerge more in playoff pressure situations.
Chargers coach Anthony Linn makes his playoff debut in his second season and has mostly called the right shots, just not against the Ravens in late December. Quarterback Philip Rivers is a proven veteran and ultimate competitor who makes plays, and is also fearless with past road playoff victories. The presence of Rivers alone is making this 2019 AFC Wild Card betting matchup befuddling for players.
Special teams edge goes to Baltimore, but Los Angeles’s defense is underrated and solid, ranking top-10 while allowing 333.7 yards per game. This unit performed admirably against the Chiefs and Steelers potent offenses on the road.
Traveling from Denver back home last week and now to the East coast is a concern, but after watching the Browns move the ball through the air when needed last week to almost end the Ravens’ season, the Chargers should have plenty of confidence. Getting past the defense is the main task. The Bosa-led unit up front is practically built to contain a player like Lamar Jackson.
The edge and experience along with the road wins at Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Seattle suggests the Chargers can get it done at Baltimore. The Chargers were all-in for their game at Kansas City in December, and held the high-powered Chiefs offense to just 294 total yards in a comeback win, 29-28. A letdown was inevitable the following week returning home against the Ravens, but there will be no letdown this week.
Key Stats and ATS: Prior to the Super Bowl, playoff teams that average more yards per pass attempt than their opponent are 98-65 ATS (60%).
The Ravens went 6-1 after their bye week with QB Jackson at quarterback, and he averaged 7.1 yards per pass. The Chargers and QB Rivers averaged 8.5. Rivers had one of the best seasons of his 15-year career with a QB rating of 105.5 while passing for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdown passes.
With such a tight line, the oddsmakers are gifting you a chance to get supreme value in this 2019 AFC Wild Card betting game which wraps up what promises to be a solid weekend of NFL action.
2019 AFC Wild Card Betting Free Pick – LA Chargers +2.5
Fairway Jay is a professional handicapper based out of Las Vegas. He focuses primarily on the four majors along with college football and college basketball. You can follow him on Twitter @FairwayJay.