Scott Shapiro's Week 16 Saturday Night Analysis- Ravens at Chargers
Much like in Week 15, there are two games on tap on Saturday in the National Football League. Both contests have playoff implications, but in reality, only the AFC confrontation between the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers is likely to have an impact on who we may see in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.
Baltimore limped into its bye week off three straight losses, including a 23-16 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 4, but then everything changed when rookie Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback in Week 11. The Ravens have rattled off four of five since then with their only defeat since the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner took over as signal caller a 27-24 overtime loss on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Ravens travel cross-country to Southern California playing great defense and running the ball extremely well. They currently are the six seed in the AFC, but their final two games are quite important. It is possible for Baltimore to earn the AFC North title, grab one of the two wild card spots, or be on the outside looking in when the playoffs begin next month.
The Ravens rushing attack and number one ranked “D” has been impressive of late, but it is fair to question whether they can move the ball against a quality defense. Since Jackson has been inserted as the starter Baltimore has faced Cincinnati, Oakland, Atlanta, Kansas City and Tampa Bay. None of these groups remind anyone of the 1985 Bears to say the least. The Chargers on the other hand are a top ten unit. They only give up 103.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranks ninth in the NFL. Additional time to prepare and superior talent to what the Ravens have faced over the past five weeks gives Los Angeles a huge chance to hold Baltimore under their implied team total on Saturday night.
The Chargers are one of the few teams hotter than the Ravens. They have won 10 of 11 and their only loss was when head coach Anthony Lynn mismanaged the last few minutes and lost to Denver on a last second field goal 23-22. They are one of the more balanced teams in the NFL and still have a chance to earn the number one seed in the AFC.
The Los Angeles offense has been short-handed of late, but they will get starting running back Melvin Gordon back in the lineup after being sidelined with a knee injury since Week 12. However, there is still a chance they could be without number one wide receiver Keenan Allen. This will likely result in the Chargers leaning on the running game more than they have in weeks’ past.
The Ravens defense has been thriving since Jackson has been inserted. Not only do they have a ton of playmakers on that side of the ball, but the fact that Baltimore leads the NFL in time of possession since John Harbaugh made the QB change has allowed them to stay rested and ready to finish the deal in the fourth quarter. The Chargers present a serious challenge for them, but they should be able to hold their own in a game where the clock is not often to stop as frequently as most games do.
I have no real opinion on a side in this one. The 4.5-point spread seems about right. I do however like the UNDER since I expect both teams to play quality defense and keep the clock moving with their running games.
Pick : UNDER (44)- 1 unit
Scott Shapiro’s 2018 NFL Record 40-32-5 (+6 units)