The Chargers come into this game after pulling one out from the Raiders when they didn’t play well at all. The Ravens come into this game after pulling one out from the Chiefs, when their offense played very well, but their defense did not. This game is going to be a wake-up call to both teams, and they should both expect lots of hitting, passionate play and some tempers flaring, even though it isn’t a rivalry game. Both coaches have probably told their team that this is a put up or shut up game, and we’ll see who goes which way.
- Phillip Rivers vs. Ravens Secondary: Last game, Brodie Croyle managed to make the secondary look average at times, and Rivers is no Brodie Croyle. While the Chiefs may have had Dwayne Bowe, who most consider a bigger threat than Vincent Jackson, Rivers has shown that he can take apart solid secondaries, time after time. The big reason this matchup is so important is because the Ravens are not going to score 38 points and set an offensive record again this week.
- Antonio Gates vs. Whoever is covering him: Back in 2007, the last time these teams met, Gates had 6 receptions for 105 yards and 2 TD and was the key to San Diego’s 32-14 victory in Baltimore. The Ravens need to put someone on him who can handle him or always keep and eye out for him while in zone coverage, because he’s the guy Rivers could use to exploit the Ravens.
- Ravens Offensive Line vs. Chargers Pass Rush: The Bolts have many pass rushing weapons, including Jamal Williams, Luis Castillo and Shawne Merriman. The Ravens’ offensive line was excellent last week in protecting Joe Flacco and he had a career day. They need to find at least something close to the same success as last game or else this might be a long game for Flacco.
- Ravens Front 7 vs. Darren Sproles: Sproles is very fast, and the tackles on him need to be good and only once. That may be THE key matchup today, because if Sproles goes off, this game could get out of hand.
PROBABLE-For Baltimore: LB Tavares Gooden (knee), LB Jarrett Johnson (shoulder), LB Terrell Suggs (concussion/chest) and S Ed Reed (concussion); For San Diego: T Marcus McNeill (hand), P Mike Scifres (groin)
QUESTIONABLE-For Baltimore: TE L.J. Smith (hamstring); For San Diego: LB Antwan Applewhite (hamstring), G Louis Vasquez (knee), DT Jamal Williams (elbow)
DOUBTFUL-For Baltimore: Tom Zbikowski (concussion); For San Diego: None.
OUT-For Baltimore: None; For San Diego: C Nick Hardwick (ankle), DE Travis Johnson (groin), RB LaDanian Tomlinson (ankle)
From that injury report, you see that the Chargers have a lot of guys banged up already. Last week, they didn’t look like they had a lot of chemistry going, and this week should be more of the same. If the Ravens can get their pass rush going, and contain the Chargers’ pass rush, they should be able to stick with the Chargers early, and fend them off late, 24-17. The offensive player of the game will be Ray Rice and the big man on D will be Haloti Ngata.
(Be here at EbonyBird.com at 4:15 to participate in a live game chat. Everyone is invited, even Chargers fans, but no Steelers love is allowed. None.)