This week the 8-2 Ravens travel to San Diego to face the 4-6 Chargers for their 4th road game in their last 5 games.
1. Trap Game
If this isn’t the definition of a trap game, I don’t know what is. The game is put right between games against the Pittsburgh Steelers. To make matter worse, the Ravens have to travel across the country. The Chargers are 4-6 but started the season 3-1. They also have a hit and miss QB in Philip Rivers who has the ability to light up a secondary. The Ravens will be banged up after their game against the Steelers and could be looking forward to the Steelers game next week as well. Last year, the Ravens lost all of their games on the road to teams that finished under .500. One of these was against the Chargers in week 15. Revenge, should be on the Ravens mind as last year they were embarrassed by the Chargers. To make matters worse, the game was on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. While the scoreboard says they lost by 20, it was in fact nowhere near as close. The Chargers out gained the Ravens 415 to 290 and the Ravens didn’t score their second touchdown until there was 1:55 left in the game.
2. Ray Rice
Rice will probably have his 9th game with under 100 rushing yards this week. The Chargers rank 3rd in the NFL giving up 87.9 rush yards per game. They also have given up 3.8 yards per attempt, 4 TDs, and the longest rush they have given up is 37 yards. Lastly, the Chargers have only allowed one person rush for over 100 yards and that was Trent Richardson who rushed for 122 yards in the Browns 7-6 victory over the Chargers. The Ravens will have to just keep feeding Rice the ball and hope that he can wear down the Chargers front 7 by the end of the game. If the offensive line can’t make any holes though, this won’t work. The passing offense hasn’t been as good on the road as at home and Rice has averaged 76.2 rush yards per game on the road compared to 63.2 at home. Also 3 of Rices 4 best rushing games have come on the road (99, 102, and 98).
This is a battle between a Ravens defensive strength and a Chargers offensive weakness. The Chargers rank tied for 14th in the AFC with 22 giveaways. They have 14 interceptions and 8 fumbles. Their QB Philip Rivers has accounted for all of the turnovers. He also has a NFL high 43 turnovers since the start of the 2011 season. The Ravens on the other hand, rank 2nd best in the NFL with a turnover differential of 12 compared to the Chargers -3. The Ravens have forced 11 interceptions and 10 fumbles for a total of 21 turnovers forced. This ranks them 2nd only to the New England Patriots. An even more impressive stat is that the Ravens have forced 9 of their 21 turnovers on 3rd down. This astonishing 42.9% of their forced turnovers ranks 1st in the NFL. The Ravens opportunistic defense will need to show up against the Chargers on Sunday. Last year they didn’t, and the Ravens lost 34-14 and gave up 415 total yards. Expect the Ravens to force 2 turnovers and turn them into 10 points which will be the difference in a close game.
4. Joe Flacco vs Eric Weddle
When you think of the top safeties in the NFL, you think of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. However, Weddle has made the last two All-Pro teams and is just as good. Polamalu is 31 years old, Reed is 34, and Weddle is 27. Weedle doesn’t get all the attention like Reed and Polamalu but over the last few years, you can argue that he has played better. Last year he had 7 INTs and he already has 3 this year. Flacco will need to know where Weddle is on every play. If he doesn’t Weddle could make a play that changes the game. Flacco hasn’t played well on the road this year but he can’t have that on his mind as they play. Expect the Ravens to attack the other side of the field against the other safety, Atari Bigby, who isn’t nearly as good as Weddle. The Ravens probably won’t have less deep passes in the gameplan because of Weddle, but Flacco will be told to look out for Weddle on these passes.