Only Two Pundits Pick Chargers to Upset Ravens
The Ravens face perhaps the NFL's most confounding and underachieving team Sunday night when they meet the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
Despite having an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball, the Chargers (4-6) are in last place in the AFC West and only six teams in the league have fewer wins.
A recurring theme for the Chargers is losing close games. Five of their defeats this season have been by three points or fewer, and they're coming off back-to-back three-point losses to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
An overwhelming majority (50 of 52) of the pundits we looked at don't see the Chargers getting right against the Ravens (8-3), who are the No. 1 seed in the AFC and winners of five of their past six games. Baltimore is a 3.5-point favorite.
"Who the f— would pick the Chargers against the Ravens," NBC Sports’ Chris Simms said.
That was probably a rhetorical question, but since Simms asked, ESPN's Dan Graziano and NFL Network's Marc Sessler did.
Here's what pundits are saying about the game:
The Chargers' defense is no match for the Ravens' offense.
**Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton:** "After last week's 23-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Head Coach Brandon Staley told reporters he will continue to call the defensive plays, which is encouraging for the Ravens. Through 11 weeks, the Chargers have given up the most passing yards per game, and they're tied for fifth in rushing scores allowed (12). Even though the Ravens will come into this game with a banged-up pass-catching group, they'll bulldoze the Chargers' interior defense — which will sorely miss Joey Bosa — for a comfortable road victory. Baltimore has won seven of its eight games by seven or more points."
**USA Today’s Victoria Hernandez:** "Having Joey Bosa out deflates the Chargers defense. That's exactly what they don't need against the high-powered Ravens offense. Lamar Jackson has so many tools at his disposal that Odell Beckham Jr. just had his first 100-yard game of the season. The Ravens get the road win and keep marking through the season."
Beckham has a big game with Mark Andrews out.
The Baltimore Banner's Chris Korman: "I'm not seeing much of a path for the Chargers to contain the Ravens without Joey Bosa. Assuming Odell Beckham Jr. is in fact healthy after taking that heavy hit against the Bengals, I'd expect him to have a big game as Todd Monken adjusts his offense to compensate for the absence of Mark Andrews. That's a huge loss, obviously, but let's be thankful there's a truly creative mind designing the offense. I'm actually excited to see how Monken tries to solve this problem."
The Ravens win convincingly.
**The Baltimore Sun’s C.J. Doon:** "I don't understand why oddsmakers expect this one to be close. On paper, the Chargers are as talented as any team in the NFL, but they routinely come up short in big games. Even if Justin Herbert can attack the Ravens' secondary, his defense will probably let him down. Plus, he endured one of the worst starts of his career in a 34-6 loss in Baltimore in 2021."
The Chargers lose but keep it close.
**The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia:** "There's a scenario in which the Chargers get blown out here and we finally see them hit rock bottom, but Justin Herbert has been playing at a high level in recent weeks. I'll go ahead and predict a competitive game. I look forward to regretting this immediately on Sunday night."
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "Give me the Ravens to take the game over late to beat the Chargers. This is pretty much a win-or-else scenario for the Chargers, and I think they'll respond accordingly for a while. However, the Chargers seem to be their own worst enemy at the moment."
The Ravens win a high-scoring game.
**USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza:** "Los Angeles needs this victory as the hot seat continues to scorch under Brandon Staley. Baltimore will be without Mark Andrews, but the Chargers continue to give out points, and it'll be harder to stop Lamar Jackson without Joey Bosa. Another shootout happens in SoFi Stadium, with the visiting team coming out on top."
A key for the Ravens will be who matches up against star wide receiver Keenan Allen.
The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer: "Who might stop Allen on Sunday? It depends partly on where the Chargers deploy him. Allen has lined up in the slot on 61.2% of his pass snaps this season, according to PFF, and out wide on the remainder. He's plenty effective in both alignments, ranking 30th among NFL wide receivers in yards per slot route run and third in yards per outside route run, according to TruMedia. If cornerback Marlon Humphrey bounces back from the calf injury that sidelined him against Cincinnati, the Ravens' secondary should be well prepared, wherever Allen ends up. A matchup against Kyle Hamilton could be especially compelling; the Ravens' versatile safety has allowed just four catches on 11 targets for 16 yards in coverage as a slot defender this season, according to Sports Info Solutions. Just two of those catches, for a combined 7 yards, went to wide receivers."
Ravens TE Isaiah Likely is an X-factor.
**ESPN’s Seth Walder:** "He's filling some large shoes with Andrews out, but he's stepping in against a team that has trouble stopping the pass, so he could produce right away."
|7 of 8 panelists pick Ravens
|4 of 4 panelists pick Ravens
|“The Chargers will always be dangerous with Justin Herbert at quarterback and Keenan Allen catching his passes. They scored 34 in a loss to the Dolphins and 38 in a loss to the Lions. Their leaky defense, on the other hand, is not equipped to deal with Lamar Jackson. The Ravens aren’t the team you want to see when your season is coming apart.” — Childs Walker
|8 of 8 panelists pick Ravens
|5 of 5 panelists pick Ravens
|“It's never a good thing when a team is badly in need of a win to stay in the playoff picture and one of the leading MVP contenders is standing in the way. On top of that, the Chargers need a plan to slow down Lamar Jackson without their best defensive player. The Ravens have found a way to self-destruct at times this season, but they seem like amateurs in that category compared to the Bolts. Los Angeles has never lost three consecutive games in one regular season since Brandon Staley was hired in 2021. I expect that to change on Sunday night.” — Dan Parr
|9 of 10 panelists pick Ravens
|Ravens 27, Chargers 24
|“The Ravens are rolling with another AFC North title in sight with their competition fading because of injury and attrition. Lamar Jackson has struggled with the Chargers in the past and their passing inconsistency can keep them from pulling away. The Chargers' defense will play a little more inspired at home with Brandon Staley on the hottest of seats. Justin Herbert also can keep his team in the game with the AFC wild-card hopes on the line.” — Vinnie Iyer
|7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens
|“The Chargers are having major issues right now and face one of the best teams in the league in this one. The Ravens offense will miss tight end Mark Andrews, but the Chargers defense is perfect for any team throwing the football. The Ravens will win it with a big game from Lamar Jackson.” — Pete Prisco
|Pro Football Talk
|2 of 2 panelists pick Ravens
|“The Chargers defense has no chance against this Ravens offense. Zero. They’re going to get steamrolled.” — Chris Simms
|7 of 7 panelists pick Ravens
Jackson on Verge of Joining Exclusive Club
Jackson is just 28 yards from joining Michael Vick, Cam Newton, and Russell Wison as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to rush for 5,000 yards. ESPN’s Jamison Hensley looked at Jackson's imminent entrance into the exclusive club.
"It's fitting he would join that group, because Jackson blends the speed of Vick, fearlessness of Newton and elusiveness of Wilson into his own style," Hensley wrote.
Hensley noted that if Jackson achieves the milestone on Sunday, he will have done it in fewer games (82) than Vick (104), Newton (129), and Wilson (175). Jackson trails Vick, the all-time leader, by 1,137 yards.
Hensley asked San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks how teams can prepare to stop Jackson running the ball. It's a challenge Wilks will be tasked with when the 49ers host the Ravens on Christmas night.
"Playing Madden," Wilks said. "This guy is extremely dynamic, can make plays when you do not think there is a play there to be made. He is just Houdini, I guess."
Analyst Says Ravens Need to Invest in Backfield This Offseason
The Ravens upgraded their wide receiver group this past offseason. Next offseason, they need to invest in the backfield, according to NFL.com analyst Maurice Jones-Drew.
"The Ravens boast one of the most imposing rushing threats in the NFL in Lamar Jackson, but in his first season under coordinator Todd Monken, Jackson's per-game rushing numbers (9.2 carries, 48.6 yards) are as low as they've been since his rookie year," Jones-Drew wrote. "Gus Edwards (who currently leads the team in rushing yards) and J.K. Dobbins (on injured reserve with a torn Achilles) are set to become free agents, and while Justice Hill and Keaton Mitchell (an explosive touchdown machine who has jumped onto the scene in 2023) will be under contract, Baltimore must add to its strength this offseason.
"As a team that features a downhill run game, it feels like a no-brainer for Baltimore to target 2024 free agent Derrick Henry on a short-term deal. The soon-to-be 30-year-old might not be what he once was, but thinking about Jackson and Henry in the Ravens' backfield makes me giddy. They could also consider bringing back Dobbins, who has had multiple injuries over the last few seasons, on a prove-it deal."
It was rumored that the Ravens were interested in dealing for Henry before the Oct. 31 trade deadline, but the star running back remained with the Tennessee Titans.
Who Is the Biggest Bargain on the Ravens?
In honor of today being Black Friday, The Athletic asked its AFC North writers which player on the team they cover is the biggest bargain.
For the Ravens, Zrebiec came up with two names.
"Two things the Ravens do really well as an organization are find quality undrafted free agents and convince established veterans to sign with them on cheap deals. Their roster is littered with bargains," Zrebiec wrote. "Getting Jadeveon Clowney on a one-year, $2.5 million contract is larceny. I know Browns fans are going to get hot and bothered in the comments section, but Clowney has played his butt off for the Ravens. He has 6.5 sacks and would be in double digits had he finished a few more plays after getting his hands on the quarterback. Seventy-three different edge rushers have a higher APY (average per year) than Clowney this season, and yet, he's consistently been one of Baltimore's better players.
"Getting safety Geno Stone, the AFC interceptions leader, on a one-year, $1.76 million deal qualifies as pretty good value as well."
- Jackson is No. 1 in CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin’s QB power rankings.