Game Preview: Ravens vs. Chargers


The Ravens' season will in many ways hinge on the next two weeks – two games against AFC playoff challengers in the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.

Win them both and the Ravens will be in very good position for reaching the playoffs. Win one and they'll still have a chance. Drop them both and it's going to be very difficult.

Baltimore needs to get off on the right foot against the  Chargers, who have the same 7-4 record, Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. Coming off a big Monday Night Football win, the Ravens need to hold serve at home.

"We need to stack wins right now," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "But it doesn't hurt if you win this game to knock somebody else back."

Three Matchups To Watch

RT Rick Wagner vs. OLB Jarret Johnson

Longtime Raven Jarret Johnson will be coming back to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since departing for San Diego before the 2012 season. If the Ravens want to run the ball well, they'll have to neutralize one of the game's best edge-setters in Johnson. That job will be up to Wagner, who has had a strong season thus far.

WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Brandon Flowers

Flowers has been one of the NFL's top cornerbacks this season, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). He's fifth on their cornerback ratings. Smith has yet to crack 100-yard more this season, but he was just two yards shy on Monday Night Football. Can he hit a big play on one of the league's best?* *

FS Will Hill vs. TE Antonio Gates

Hill did a superb job of containing Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. Now he's got another tough task with eight-time Pro Bowler Antonio Gates, who is still having a strong season at 34 years old. Gates is quarterback Philip Rivers' security blanket, and is especially dangerous in the red zone. The veteran tight end has nine touchdownsthis year, his most since 2010.* *

Three Keys To The Game

Get To Rivers

Rivers is like the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger in a way. He's tough to bring down and can make big plays with additional time. Rivers can be one of the NFL's top quarterbacks, but he can also lose his cool when he gets hit a few times. Baltimore's front seven could take over.* *

Fast Start

It's not easy for teams to come from the West Coast, and the Chargers have been lethargic before in that situation. They got stomped by the Miami Dolphins, 37-0, earlier this season when they had to make the cross-country trip and play a 1 p.m. game. If the Ravens can continue their momentum from Monday Night Football and start fast, they could roll over the Chargers.* *

Shut Down Run Game

The Chargers have welcomed back running back Ryan Mathews from an early-season injury, and he went off last week against the St. Louis Rams, running 12 times for 105 yards and a touchdown. Tha'ts a whopping 8.8 yards per carry. If the Ravens can limit Matthews and force the game to fall on Rivers' shoulders, the  pass rushers can get after him more effectively.

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