Week 2: Ravens vs. Chargers Preview

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Game Info:

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m. (EDT)

Site: Qualcomm Stadium (71,500) · San Diego, CA

TV: CBS

Announcers: Dick Enberg (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (color)

Overview: Both teams did not live up to expectations against inferior teams last week. The Chargers were given all they could handle from the Raiders, and were able to snatch a victory in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. And the Ravens had to overcome some costly mistakes to finish off Kansas City. Because they played on Monday night, the Chargers have a short week to get ready. Baltimore will travel to San Diego on Friday, a day earlier than usual, to try and get accustomed to time change. They will practice Saturday at San Diego State University.

Ravens Offense vs. Chargers Defense: After their 501 yard outburst in Week 1, it’s clear the Ravens are capable of putting up big offensive numbers. A balanced attack of Ray Rice and Willis McGahee will once again be the critical early in order to establish the pass and to wear down the Chargers’ front seven. San Diego has two speedy corners in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. They won’t be as easy to burn as the Kansas City defensive backs, but they are aggressive and the right play action call could open the door for a big pass play. The offensive line has to deal with Jamal Williams at nose tackle; he is so talented and at 348 pounds, often requires a double team because he takes up so much space. Shawne Merriman is an elite pass rusher and Jared Gaither is going to have his hands full with him. The running backs are going to have to do a good job of protecting Flacco because the pass rush is going to be there all afternoon. The rushing attack is the heartbeat of this offense and if it struggles early, the Ravens could be in for a long day.

Chargers Offense vs. Ravens Defense: On paper, it’s hard to think how San Diego ever loses a game. Phillip Rivers has really blossomed into one of the league’s best young quarterbacks. Tight end Antonio Gates is an incredible athlete. He is such a mismatch to any defense. Cover him with a linebacker and he will use his speed to beat you. Put a quick defensive back on him and then he turns into a basketball player who catches everything. He is such a threat in the red zone and must be accounted for at all times. LaDainian Tomlinson, a former league MVP, is still a very dangerous running back (UPDATE: As of Friday afternoon, 9/18,  LaDainian Tomlinson has been ruled out of Sunday’s game due to a sore left ankle). But it is the 5-foot-6 Darren Sproles who will be the biggest challenge for Baltimore. He is short, built like a fire hydrant, and very explosive. He returns punts and kickoffs as well. Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce, who is 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds noted the challenge of playing against him. “It’s a lot harder, because you have to leave your feet to dive at him. You can’t squat that low. The bigger you are, the harder it is to tackle a small back. The lower he gets, the lower you have to get. By that time, you’re sitting on your behind.” It is very critical for the Ravens to take advantage of the Chargers’ offensive line, which is dealing with two major injuries. Both starting center Nick Hardwick and guard Louis Vasquez left Monday night’s game with ankle and knee injuries respectively. Both did not practice Wednesday and are questionable for Sunday’s game. If Baltimore is able to blitz effectively and get pressure on Rivers, keeping Gates in check will be much easier. Stopping the run is what the Ravens do best and it will be a quite interesting to see how they gameplan for Tomlinson and Sproles. I believe whether or not the Ravens can generate a turnover that leads to a score will be the difference between a win and a loss.

Prediction: There are a few trends that favor the Chargers on Sunday. They are 20-4 at Qualcomm Stadium since 2006, which is the league’s second-best home record in that stretch. And the Ravens have lost seven of their last eight road openers. I’m going to go against those trends. Baltimore is confident and disciplined, and I predict this one to be a tight one that goes right down to the wire. RAVENS 24-23.

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