Everything You Need to Know: Ravens at Chargers

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Basics

Kickoff: Saturday, 8:20 p.m., StubHub Center

TV: NFL Network, Channel 11 (Baltimore), NBC-NFL Network crew (Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner, Peter Schrager)
Radio: WBAL (1090 AM) and 98Rock (97.9FM)
Jersey color: White

Stakes

The Ravens likely need to win this game to make the playoffs. If they lose, even a home victory against Cleveland in Week 17 may not be enough to save them. The Ravens have played their most consistent football over the past five weeks, winning four of their last five. However, this is their biggest game of the season so far, one that will help decide whether they reach the playoffs or miss the postseason for the fourth straight year.

History

The Ravens lead the all-time series, 6-5. Their last meeting was in 2015, when Baltimore defeated the Chargers, 29-26, at M&T Bank Stadium. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker booted five field goals in that game, including the game-winner from 39 yards on the final play. The last time the Ravens played the Chargers in Southern California was in San Diego, when running back Ray Rice pulled off the “Hey, Diddle Diddle” 4th-and-29 miracle.

Can the Ravens beat one of the NFL’s best teams on the road?

The Ravens faced a similar challenge two weeks ago in Kansas City. They played well but lost a classic game to the Chiefs, 27-24, in overtime. That performance reaffirmed that the Ravens are good enough to play with anyone, anywhere. But anything short of a victory will feel crushing.

Will the Ravens’ running game remain dominant?

The Ravens have rushed for at least 190 yards in five consecutive games, the first team to do that since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chargers are ranked No. 9 in rushing defense, the best run defense Baltimore has faced since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback. Jackson said they are the fastest defense he’s seen on tape. The Chargers hope they have some answers for the Ravens’ running game. We’re about to find out.

Can the Ravens stop Rivers when it matters most?

Rivers is a great quarterback who has thrown 31 touchdowns to eight interceptions this season and is an MVP candidate. He is superb at improvising in clutch situations, like Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes did to the Ravens two weeks ago. To beat the Chargers, the Ravens’ defense must stop Rivers from making game-changing plays.

Key Matchups

Ravens run defense vs. RB Melvin Gordon

The Ravens are usually solid against the run, but Gordon (802 yards) is the best running back they have faced since Joe Mixon of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11. Gordon is expected to be back after a three-game absence with a knee injury. If he gives the Chargers a consistent running game, stopping Rivers through the air will be even tougher.

Ravens secondary vs. QB Philip Rivers

This will be a battle of wits between Rivers and Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle. They competed against each other in practice for nine years as teammates with the Chargers, and Weddle is responsible for lining up the Ravens’ secondary. Rivers doesn’t mind taking chances to make a big play, but the Ravens have four cornerbacks playing at a high level – Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Brandon Carr and Tavon Young. They also have Weddle, who knows Rivers better than any other quarterback. Can either outsmart the other in a key moment?

RB Gus Edwards vs. Chargers run defense

It’s a small sample size, but the Ravens are undefeated (4-0) when Edwards rushes for at least 70 yards. Jackson always draws the defense’s attention, which opens running lanes for Edwards to pound opponents with his physical style. There is no reason for the Ravens not to feed Edwards, even though the Chargers are tough against the run. When “Gus the Bus” rolls, the Ravens are tough to beat.

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