A big game for San Diego on Sunday. A win forces them back into the "contender" (vs. "in the hunt") conversation, though it may be brief given the next two opponents (New England, Denver). While not all of the remaining games are "must win", this is a big game.
For the Chargers, this is a tough match up. Baltimore has been playing well, though their schedule has been relatively soft. Their DVOA for "past games" is -5.0% (as measured by DVOA), meaning their competition has been 5% weaker than the average NFL team, the 8th easiest. San Diego's is -0.2%. By most metrics, Baltimore looks better. The best interpretation of the data for San Diego is that the team has been playing better since the bye, especially on defense as injured, important players have returned to playing.
Baltimore's total DVOA and total team PFFM (Pro Football Focus Metric) both show a nice rebound for Baltimore in 2014 (vs. 2013), driven by a strongly improved offense after a very anemic year last year. Their defense seems about the same, at league average, far from dominant, at least according to DVOA. PFFM likes their defense better. Please note that I reversed the sign for DVOA defense. Normally a negative score is a good thing but here and throughout the article a positive score for defense is good.
Their sharp rebound matches their improvement in improvement in offense. San Diego's metrics will be inserted at the end of the article.
Baltimore's DVOA by game shows a pretty consistent performance. Their defense has generally been pretty solid with their offense being pretty mediocre though with a few very good games. Their special teams, which I really don't value too much as a predictive metric, has been very consistent.
In contrast, San Diego's performance seems to follow key points of demarcation. For the offense, it was steady (down from last year, but still effective) until a complete collapse in Miami and gradually recovering finally getting back to earlier season effectiveness against St. Louis.
The defense showed promise through the New York game, and then through a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness, collapsed but has been also steadily improving, especially after the bye.
For Charger fans, this is the most promising narrative: they have weathered the storm of injuries on the defense, made adjustments on the offense and are returning to early season form.
Comparing the two teams DVOA by game, Baltimore has been much more consistent by the San Diego's recent trends suggest they may be pulling things together and are a stronger team than their metrics averaged over the whole season would suggest.
Baltimore, based on PFFM, has the slight edge of offense, driven mainly by the strength of their running game. San Diego, in contrast, is all about Rivers.
Again for San Diego, there is a hopeful narrative. The return of Mathews helps the RB corp immensely, hopefully creating value in both the running attack and taking some pressure off the passing game and Rivers.
On defense, there is not much to be happy about for Chargers' fans.
San Diego's secondary when it had a healthy Flowers, Verrett and Weddle was an excellent unit. Unfortunately for San Diego, the drop off from Verrett to Wright (and others) is tremendous, really eroding the unit's ability. Baltimore's secondary is not their strength. The one player providing value was Jimmy Smith, out for the season. So their secondary is probably worse than these metrics suggest.
Moving away from the secondary, Baltimore has a marked advantage. Their front seven look much, much stronger than San Diego's.
At the end of the article there will be detail by position for each team. Below are the top and bottom ranked players by PFFM for Baltimore, ranked by their team PFFM, but showing their individual PFFM score. The difference between the two is that the team metric takes the position they play into account and estimates their impact at the team level.
Baltimore's Top 15
Baltimore's Bottom 15
A lot of their secondary shows up on this list. If San Diego can keep the front seven off balance, the receiving corp ought to be able to get some separation.
In summary, the metrics for the season suggest a much stronger Baltimore team than San Diego. Charger fans though can finesse out the hope that Baltimore's relative easy schedule and depleted secondary make them less formidable than their data suggests. Coupled with San Diego's improvement on defense and offense in recent games, these teams may be much more evenly matched than a quick review might suggest.
Baltimore and San Diego Player Detail
San Diego Data Not Shown Earlier
San Diego's Top and Bottom 15 Players
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