HAPPY GAME DAY, BOLT FAM!
The Chargers are hosting the 8-3 Baltimore Ravens who are arguably playing the most balanced brand of football since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback. They can legitimately win games with their three-headed monster of a rush attack, behind the arm of Jackson and diverse blend of receiving talents, or with their stifling run defense. Should all three of these units work in concert with another, watch out... you’re in for a long day.
We’ll start off by giving you our predictions for today’s games, but keep the conversation going in the comments below!
I'm not sure I have ever felt less confident in a matchup than I am for this game against a Ravens team that is if anything underrated despite being in first place in the AFC. Their brand of tough football under Harbaugh has been held back by injuries in recent years but now they are mostly healthy, they are playing complete football in all three phases. They have one of the best pass rushes in the league and are a top 5 defense in almost every metric there is however if there is one weakness it is their run defense which isn't something they are going to struggle with as Kellen Moore’s offense has struggled mightily since their great showing in Week 1.
On the other side of the ball I'm afraid to even watch how easily Lamar Jackson will move the ball against a team where he can pick and choose the way he wants to attack. He can be a pocket passer, a hand-off merchant or just run the ball himself and it will likely work against a Brandon Staley defense that has struggled against all three options at times.
I reserve some hope this could be closer than I'm expecting it to be due to the fact the oddsmakers have this as only a 3 point favorite. However all logic indicates this will be over early. I wish I could be more positive and if this was another team this week then I would have been but this matchup is daunting before you even consider the mentality differential.
Final Score: Ravens 35-13
I had the pleasure of appearing on the Thunder Down Under Podcast this week with Alister and Andy, and remarked that I think the Chargers “steal” one win this season thanks to Derwin’s move to the slot. I don’t think this is the week it happens.
The Ravens have a very, very complete roster and are firing on all cylinders. Their fanbase’s biggest concern is whether or not their run defense is up to the task of shutting down Ekeler and Kelly (laughs maniacally).
I don’t see the offense getting completely dismantled, but I don’t see our defense holding up for four quarters. I actually expect a two possession loss tonight, despite another Herculean effort by Justin Herbert.
Final Score: Ravens 31-21
From an analytics perspective, the Chargers and Ravens have similarly efficient offenses, with the Chargers more reliant on explosive plays, as the gulf between their 7th overall EPA per play efficiency and 16th overall success rate demonstrates. The Ravens rank 6th in EPA per play but are much more consistent, ranking 4th in success rate. Of course, they get it done in different ways.
It should come as no shock that the Ravens rank 1st in run success rate and run efficiency. Lamar Jackson is a gifted passer, but the offense is first and foremost a rushing offense. Nevertheless, the passing offense matches the overall offense – 12th in EPA per play but 9th in success rate. They avoid big negatives and do enough to keep the chains moving.
The concern comes defensively. It’s well-known that the Chargers have a poor passing defense – they rank 26th in defensive dropback EPA and 29th in success rate against the pass and are a bit below average against the run (16th in EPA/play and 20th in success rate). In aggregate, that produces the 28th-ranked defense in EPA per play and in success rate.
The Ravens are not so far behind. They have the third-best overall defense in EPA per play, fifth-best in success rate, fourth-best in EPA per play on drobackas and third-best in dropback success rate. Against the run, they rank 9th in EPA per play and 16th in success rate.
At a broad level, this matchup features two good offenses – one of which is paired with a stellar defense and the other of which is paired with an extraordinarily poor defense. While the biggest weakness of the Chargers defense doesn’t align with the biggest strength of the Ravens offense, that’s probably enough to swing things completely in the Ravens’ direction.
There are other minutiae to break down, like pressure rates, blitz rates, RPO performance and so on – but those don’t really matter when the big picture is so slanted.
Final Score: Ravens 34-21