The Baltimore Ravens are the AFC North division champions. They will be facing off against the strong Chargers team in their first playoff game.
The nfl chargers is a team that needs to be stout against the Baltimore Ravens. They’ve only given up an average of 17 points per game this season, and they will need to keep that up if they want to win.
(CBSLA) – LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – With a 4-1 record after five weeks, the Chargers are still atop the AFC standings. The Buffalo Bills and the Baltimore Ravens are the only other teams with the same record as them.
INGLEWOOD, CA – OCTOBER 10: Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 is pressured by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa #97 during the Cleveland Browns vs. Los Angeles Chargers game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA on October 10, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire) )
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The Chargers will meet the Ravens in a shootout this weekend, as the two first-place teams square off in what is expected to be a shootout.
The Chargers will be confronted with the challenge of restraining the ever-versatile Lamar Jackson and his offense, which is averaging 27 points per game, only one week after a similar matchup with another AFC North club, the Cleveland Browns, which they beat 47-42.
Los Angeles’ defense has only given up more than 20 scores twice this season, as they try to contain the NFL’s top total-yards-per-game offense, which averages 440.6 yards per game on the strength of Top-10 running and passing performances.
Prior to Sunday’s game, CBS analyst and former NFL safety Adam Archuleta shared his views, stating that the Chargers would have their hands full. (Editor’s note: For clarity’s sake, this discussion has been gently modified and condensed.)
What do you believe the key to stopping the Ravens’ offense should be?
“Well, there’s no such thing as a secret sauce.” When it comes to a player of Jackson’s level, an MVP candidate, or a quarterback, you have to be at your best, and they have to have a bad game. That’s why, all else being equal, the best quarterbacks are so difficult to stop. You can perfect everything, but they’re so wonderful. When I look at their offense, I see three different ways they can damage you: their rushing game, which includes Jackson, their play-action game, and their drop-back throwing game. Two of those phases are where they get their big plays: their run game and play-action game, so you should try to minimize them if at all possible. You must be great on first down and push them into the drop-back passing game by putting them in obvious passing situations. If you do that, your front four must play well, and you must put a lot of pressure on him.”
Despite losing J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill to injury this season, the Ravens are still fourth in the league in running yards per game with 148.8 yards per game. The Chargers can anticipate more of the same from an offense that defies all expectations.
Archuleta continued with an open assessment of the Chargers’ defense, particularly after their performance last week, which dropped them to 32nd in the league in terms of running defense.
Do you believe their defense can compliment the Chargers’ offense?
“First and foremost, they are not a Top 10 defense. You also have to consider the quality of opponents and attacks they’ve faced: this Chargers football club has been through a lot. They’ve had to play against some very talented opponents. After seeing the coaches copy of the defense, I saw that they were being pushed about too much inside up front, thus they weren’t particularly strong in the center. On the outside, I didn’t believe their edge guys did a great job of controlling the run – they allowed the run go too far outside too often, and they were exposed a little on some downfield shots. I believe it is an adequate defense from top to bottom, but not a top tier defensive. I believe they can be a little bit more sturdy in the center, which is what I’m aiming for in this game.”
The Chargers, on the other hand, have made good use of their own offense, ranking third in the league in passing offense behind second-year quarterback Justin Herbert, who has thrown for 11 touchdowns in his past three games. This may be due to a variety of reasons, as Archuleta stated while mentioning Justin Herbert’s calm demeanor and the rebuilding of their offensive line.
INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 10: Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert #10 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California on October 10, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Ronald Martinez)
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Is it more the receiving core, the offensive line, or Brandon Staley’s play-calling that has altered Herbert, or is it more him? Is it a combination of both that has resulted in this improvement?
“I compare it to a football squad that is still figuring out who they are — and becoming better.” You’ve got a new coach, and everything is new to you. You’re trying to figure it all out. When the season begins, it’s difficult to have the idea that you’ll be going at a 100 percent pace. When I look at Herbert, the first thing that comes to me is someone who has such authority and confidence in what he’s doing. When he has to make a big time throw, when they have to have it, he makes that throw — whether in the pocket or scrambling. They see this, believe it, and place the ball in his hands. So what really jumps out to me is his calmness in those crucial times.”
Other aspects of the Chargers’ offense, particularly their new offensive line and their hidden weapon in Austin Ekeler, were nonetheless praised by him.
“They totally restructured and rebuilt their offensive line, and they are much superior to what they were before. For I don’t know how many years, the Chargers’ offensive line has been a problem – whether due to injuries or uneven performance – but they have been playing extremely well.”
The Chargers are a squad that like to toss the ball first. In that sense, how valuable does Austin Ekeler become as a player who can get yards when the defense expects them to? What role do you think he’ll play, and how good do you think he’ll be under such circumstances?
“Well, I think he’s fantastic.” I’m not sure whether he’s still regarded underrated, but I believe he belongs in the category of football players that improve your team’s performance. When I examine the Chargers’ offense, I believe they have three guys capable of winning one-on-one fights. Keenan Allen is one of those men who has to have it. Mike Williams is one of those people that does things in a unique way. And Ekeler is one of those people, in my opinion. On third down, teams like to double Keenan Allen; they plan it out and get a shot downfield to Williams, taking advantage of the double team. Now that the defense has two receivers who we’ll have to match up with one-on-one, do they have a linebacker that can not just cover but also tackle Ekeler? In the wide field, Ekeler is a superb tackle avoider and tackle breaker. Now that the defense is concerned about the passing game, with these two receivers who can beat pretty much anyone, and you have Ekeler 1-on-1 with a linebacker – because the safeties are most likely concerned about these receivers – I see him as a guy who can dominate, and I believe they plan to get those 1-on-1 opportunities. He’s a fantastic chess piece, in my opinion. Herbert has done an excellent job of seeing what’s going on, who’s being doubled, where’s my help, where’s my matchup, and getting the ball to Ekeler. When he gets the ball in his hands, he is as talented as anybody out of the backfield at generating plays.”
Archuleta had a lot to say about this year’s Ravens defense, highlighting how different they’ve looked compared to previous seasons and why this might spell a shootout on Sunday:
“In terms of the Ravens’ defense, they’ve been a top defense for the past three seasons and a top 10 scoring defense for as long as I can remember – they’re not performing up to Ravens standards, definitely not where they’ve been.” They’ve faced some very strong offenses, and although injuries may have played a role, I believe the one thing they’re missing is a consistent pass rush. They haven’t been able to get to the quarterbacks in a long time, whether with a three- or four-man rush. I know their defensive coordinator, Don Martindale, likes to pressure and blitz – and they get pressure that way. However, I believe that the more you depend on that blitz, the more opponents will exploit it. This year, teams have been able to catch them in blitzing scenarios, and they can’t afford to give their secondary a respite to cope with some of those injuries by playing more zone. They won’t get pressure if they don’t rush or blitz, and I believe that’s an area where they can improve. They’re not this iron barrier up front, so you can run the ball on them. They’re a decent defense, but they’re not a stifling one that you can’t run or throw against. I believe it is a defense on which you can move the ball, and the Chargers are definitely capable of doing that with what they have. It’ll be fascinating to see how these two football teams compete.”
Herbert enters the game as the league’s seventh-best quarterback, while Jackson is only one spot ahead of him at sixth. Despite this, the Chargers are favored by +2.5 points over the Ravens at Caesar’s Sportsbook. Archuleta gave an unexpected answer when asked whether he would prefer face Herbert or Jackson if he were still playing.
If you were to face Justin Herbert or Lamar Jackson in a game, who would you be more apprehensive about facing? How would you attempt to stop both players?
“It’s a difficult issue, but I’d rather deal with Herbert than Jackson. Simply because, if I’m against Herbert, we’ll be running a more traditional offense. I know he’s a gifted player who can create plays, but playing Jackson immerses you in a whole other world. You now have all of their misdirection components, as well as all of their various option components, and you have him in the open field. In traditional football, you acquire spatial intelligence and knowledge of where your help is and where your men are in different coverages, but Jackson throws it out the window. You’re not playing instinctively, and their attack makes you think. When you consider, you take a step backwards. You’re now a step behind Jackson in the open field, who is one of the best open field runners in the NFL. When you play the Ravens, you see a lot of wide open receivers because people are thinking and you’re doing stuff you wouldn’t normally do. You can only play a handful of defenses with Jackson. You can’t play man since he knows you’ll be in zone, most likely a single-high zone. You don’t have nearly as many disguise choices or as big of a toolbox as he has, and he gets the advantage when you’re playing against him because of his skill set as a runner and how the Ravens designed their strategy to take use of it all. For that matter, I’d rather play Herbert or any other throwing quarterback.”
The game’s matchup odds are o51.5, which means that the combined score for the game between the two teams is expected to be around 52 total points, and spectators can expect a thrilling shootout between Herbert and Jackson.
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