The Ravens are back in Baltimore this week and looking to get on the right track after a 1-6 start to the season.
San Diego (2-5) comes to M&T Bank Stadium also desperate for a victory, and both teams are aiming to turn around their season.
Here are five things to watch in this Week 8 matchup:
Do Chargers Air It Out?
The numbers and recent history certainly suggest that the Chargers will attack the Ravens through the air. San Diego's offense is ranked as the best in the NFL, averaging 430.7 yards per game, and quarterback Philip Rivers is on pace to set an NFL record with more than 5,600 passing yards. The Ravens have struggled to stop quarterbacks from putting up huge numbers this season, and Rivers may be the best they face. He spreads the ball around to his receivers, tight ends and running backs, and the Ravens will need to play much better than they have in recent weeks to cut down on the big plays that have plagued them all year.
Keep Rivers Sidelined With Strong Running Game
The best defense against Rivers and that San Diego offense is to just keep them off the field. The Ravens will likely try to get that done by pounding the ball on the ground with running backs Justin Forsett and Buck Allen. The Chargers have the second-worst run defense in the NFL, and the Ravens* *offense is predicated on the run game. Allen, the fourth-round pick, could have an increased role based on solid performances the last few weeks. If he and Forsett get into a groove, that will keep Rivers on the sideline and go a long way in helping the Ravens get a win.
Find Ways To Force Turnovers
The defense's lack of turnovers this year was a consistent talking point throughout the week of practice. Players and coaches stressed the need to improve in that area, as the Ravens haven't come up with a turnover since Week 3 against the Bengals. The Ravens expected safeties Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis to be ball hawks in the back end of the defense, but they have just one interception between them. If the Chargers decide to go with heavy passing attack, then the Ravens defensive backs will have their fair share of opportunities to get their hands on the football.
Don't Give Jacoby A Crease
The Ravens know as well as anyone how return man Jacoby Jones can change a game. He's off to a slow start in his new home, but he'll be looking for an opportunity to break a big return against his old team. Head Coach John Harbaugh joked that he fully expects Jones to bring the kickoffs out of the end zone from 9.999 yards deep, and he's stressed to the special teams unit all week, "Don't give him a crease."
Fire Up The Home Crowd
The Ravens are eager to play in front of a home audience after living out of a suitcase the first two months of the season. M&T Bank Stadium has been one of the toughest places for opponents to win during Harbaugh's tenure in Baltimore, and the Ravens can use some of that home cooking. It also doesn't hurt that Ray Lewis will be in the building as the "Legend of the Game," and the video tribute to honor him during the first quarter will certainly get the crowd to its feet.