SERIES HISTORY: 12th regular-season meeting. Ravens lead series, 6-5. The last three games have been decided by three points or fewer. The Chargers, who possess a 4-3 record when they are the home team, fell 29-26 at Baltimore in their last pairing in 2015. The last time the Ravens visited the Chargers, Baltimore prevailed 16-13 in overtime.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has successfully executed the run-pass option and the Ravens have 1,183 yards rushing over the past five games. The former Heisman Trophy winner has run for 427 of those yards. Baltimore will look to set the tone by running the ball once again against the Chargers to keep their sixth-ranked offense off the field. Baltimore will face a potentially explosive offense for the third straight game.
The Chargers average 392 yards and 28.2 points. Los Angeles also is balanced in its ability to run and throw the ball, in addition to being adept at protecting the ball (plus-3 turnover ratio). The Ravens overtook Buffalo as the league's No. 1 overall defense with a 20-12 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15. However, this matchup in Los Angeles will be another challenge.
The Chargers offense will have starting running back Melvin Gordon back in the lineup and that's big against the Ravens' lights-out, No. 1 defense. Los Angeles could lean on its running game more this week behind Gordon, who has scored 13 touchdowns despite sitting out the past three games due to a knee injury. Rookie Justin Jackson also played while filling in for Gordon. If the Chargers can run the ball, it keeps quarterback Philip Rivers out of harm's way. But it won't be easy with the Ravens having the No. 3 rushing defense, allowing 87.6 yards per game.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
--QUESTIONABLE: TE Nick Boyle (concussion), LB Matthew Judon (knee), LB/DB Anthony Levine (toe, ankle), G Alex Lewis (shoulder)
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
--OUT: TE Sean Culkin (back), RB Austin Ekeler (neck)
--QUESTIONABLE: WR Keenan Allen (hip)
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Ravens secondary vs. Chargers QB Philip Rivers. Baltimore did an effective job shutting down Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston in Week 15, but Patrick Mahomes was able to deliver big plays for Kansas City the prior week. Rivers is ranked seventh in the NFL with 3,951 passing yards, 31 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey is having one of his finest seasons, but the secondary has struggled to force turnovers this season. Baltimore cannot afford to fall too far behind early in the game.
--Chargers DEs Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram vs. Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. Bosa is rounding into form after missing the first nine games with a foot injury. Ingram is showing a spark too, and the Chargers will need both their edge rushers to try and bottle up Jackson. While Bosa and Ingram love to get up field as fast as possible, they must do so with an eye of not running by the quick Jackson. Maintaining the edges to keep Jackson contained is going to be nearly as important as getting to him. Seeing a scrambling Jackson, who has three rushing touchdowns and is averaging five yards per carry, is something the Chargers are trying to avoid.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chargers RB Melvin Gordon. Gordon is back after missing a trio of games with a knee injury and his contributions will be significant as the Chargers try to best the NFL's top defense. Gordon adds the balance that could help keep the Ravens' rugged pass rush at bay. But Gordon is also such a fine receiver that he also helps in the passing game. Gordon, if his knee is right, could be poised for a big game.
FAST FACTS: RAVENS have rushed for 190+ yards in 5 consecutive games & is 1st team to accomplish feat since 1976 PITTSBURGH STEELERS. ... QB LAMAR JACKSON (rookie) passed for 1 TD vs. 0 INTs with 91 rating & had 95 rush yards last week. Has 65+ rush yards in each of his 1st 5 career starts. ... RB GUS EDWARDS (rookie) had 104 rush yards & TD last week, his 3rd career 100-yard game. Has 486 rush yards (97.2 per game) & 2 TDs in his past 5. ... WR WILLIE SNEAD IV led team with 5 receptions for 58 yards last week. Has 5+ catches & 50+ rec. yards in 4 of his past 6. ... TE MARK ANDREWS leads rookie TEs in rec. yards (415) & ranks 2nd in receptions (28). ... LB TERRELL SUGGS has 3.5 sacks & 5 TFL in his past 5 on road. Has 3.5 sacks in his past 5 vs. Chargers. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Charger with sack. ... S ERIC WEDDLE had 71 PD, 19 INTs, incl. 3 INT-TDs, 6.5 sacks, 5 FFs & 4 FRs in 9 seasons with Chargers (2007-15). ... CB MARLON HUMPHREY had career-high 4 PD & 3rd-career INT last week. ... LB C.J. MOSLEY led team with 8 tackles & had 0.5 sacks in Week 15. ... CHARGERS QB PHILIP RIVERS passed for 313 yards with 2 TDs vs. 2 INTs for 89 rating last week. Has 2,199 pass yards (314.1 per game) & 16 TDs vs. 4 INTs for 114.4 rating in 7 home games this season. Has 684 pass yards (342 per game) & 6 TDs vs. 1 INT for 119.2 rating in his past 2 vs. Bal. Aims for his 3rd in row vs. Bal. with 300+ yards, 3+ TDs & 110+ rating. Ranks 3rd in NFL with 112.4 rating. ... RB MELVIN GORDON has 120+ scrimmage yards in 5 of his past 6 at home. ... Rookie RB JUSTIN JACKSON had career-high 85 scrimmage yards & rush TD last week. Has rush TD in 2 of his past 3. ... WR KEENAN ALLEN aims for his 3rd in row vs. Bal. & 4th in row at home with TD catch. ... WR MIKE WILLIAMS had 7 catches for 76 yards & 3 TDs (2 rec. & 1st career rush TD) & caught GW 2-pt. conversion last week. Has 5 TDs (4 rec., 1 rush) in his past 4. ... DE JOEY BOSA has 4 sacks & FR in his past 4 at home. ... DE MELVIN INGRAM had 1.5 sacks in Week 15. Had 1.5 sacks in last meeting. Rookie S DERWIN JAMES is only player in 2018 with 90+ tackles (93), 3+ sacks (3.5) & 3+ INTs (3).
PREDICTION: The Ravens have kept it simple since inserting rookie QB Jackson, but Rivers is having an MVP campaign and the return of Gordon will be the deciding factors.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 26-22