Wed, 08 Dec 2021

Kevin Eck

Majority of Pundits Pick Chargers to Beat Ravens

Two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL will square off when Lamar Jackson and the AFC North-leading Ravens host Justin Herbert and the AFC West-leading Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, and the pundits are expecting Week 6's marquee matchup to be a shootout that goes down to the wire.

Twenty-four of the 30 pundits we looked at who predicted the score have the game being decided by three points or less (the other six have it being decided by four-to-six points).

Ravens fans have grown accustomed to being on the edge of their seats this season, as four of the team's five games have come down to the final play, including two that went into overtime.

The Ravens (4-1) have shown a knack for finding ways to win those games, but the majority of pundits we sampled (34 of 51) believe the Chargers (4-1) will pull out the victory.

Both teams are coming off thrilling wins. Herbert seemed like a lock for AFC Offensive Player of the Week after he threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns and ran for a touchdown in the Chargers' 47-42 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

However, it was Lamar Jackson who won the award after completing 86 percent of his passes and throwing for a franchise-record 442 yards and four touchdowns to erase a 19-point second-half deficit in the Ravens' 31-25 victory in overtime over the Indianapolis Colts on "Monday Night Football."

Strap in and get ready for another thrilling ride.

Here's a sample of what the pundits are predicting for the game:

Herbert will exploit the Ravens' pass defense.

Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith: "I love the way Justin Herbert is playing right now, and I think the Ravens' pass defense is suspect. Look for Herbert to have a very big game."

CBS Sports' John Breech: "Not only does Herbert have nice hair, but he's also been unstoppable over the past three weeks. From Week 3 to Week 5, the Chargers have gone 3-0 and a big reason for that is because Herbert has thrown for 10 touchdowns with zero interceptions while averaging 300.3 yards per game. The Ravens have struggled to stop the pass this year so let's not rule out the possibility that Herbert throws for 700 yards."

The Baltimore Sun's Tim Schwartz: "If the Ravens struggled to slow the Colts' Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. on Monday night, what might Herbert, running back Austin Ekeler and the wide receiving duo of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams do against the Baltimore secondary?"

Jackson will win the battle of MVP candidates over Herbert.

Sports Illustrated's Todd Karpovich: "The Ravens should be able to make enough plays down the stretch to outlast the Chargers. Jackson outplays Herbert. The Ravens are playing on a short week, but Los Angeles is dealing with a three-hour time change and a 1 p.m. kickoff.

The Ravens' rushing attack could get back on track against the Chargers, who are last in the league in run defense.

Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer: "As good as [the Chargers] can be defending the pass at times, they're not meant to handle run-heavy attacks, especially ones involving Lamar Jackson, who also is back to pushing the ball downfield with accuracy. Baltimore will have more success rendering Los Angeles one-dimensional."

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "The Chargers are awful against the run, so does this get the Ravens back running it again? It might. I think both offenses can have their way."

The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker: "If the Ravens get their running game going, they will present ... problems for a Los Angeles defense that just gave up 42 points to the Browns."

Justin Tucker will come through in the clutch again.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: "Justin Tucker with a walk-off from 51 [yards]. ... This will be something like it was a few weeks ago when Justin Tucker bounced in the 66-yarder [to beat the Detroit Lions]. It won't need to be 66 this time."

OLB Odafe Oweh vs. OT Rashawn Slater is a matchup to watch.

Russell Street Report's James Ogden: "My favorite matchup in this game has to be two rookie phenoms going head to head. I'm sure the Ravens will mix up the guy Rashawn Slater has to face, and I mentioned earlier that I'd like to see [Justin] Houston lined up over him, but he'll undoubtedly face Odafe Oweh too. Slater has lived up to expectations and looks every bit the left tackle of the future for the Chargers, protecting Herbert's blind-side for years to come. He does have very good foot speed and he will be tested facing Oweh's speed off the edge."

Bart Scott Doubles Down on Dissing Marquise Brown

Former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott doubled down on his criticism of Marquise "Hollywood" Brown after the wide receiver took issue with Scott saying he wouldn't start for the Bills, Chiefs or Packers on ESPN's "First Take."

Scott said that not only would Brown not start for those three teams, but he also wouldn't start for any of the Ravens' AFC North rivals.

The numbers say otherwise. Among AFC North teams, only Bengals first-round pick Ja'Marr Chase has more receiving yards (456) than Brown (451). The Steelers' Chase Claypool (341) is a distant third.

Scott also took a shot at ESPN analyst and former Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III, who had his former teammate's back on Twitter.

"I see you. Be very careful. Right now you're starting out a new career, RG3. Don't make me 'at' you," Scott said.

Scott is a man of many words, but Brown only needed one word to sum up Scott's comments about him.

"Foolishness," Brown said after yesterday's practice.

Pro Football Focus Says Ravens Have One of NFL's Deepest Rosters

A testament to the Ravens' depth is the fact they are 4-1 despite a slew of injuries, including season-ending injuries to several key players.

Pro Football Focus ranked teams based on their depth, and the Ravens were No. 5.

"The Ravens have made the fourth-most draft selections since 2017 with 45, which helps bolster their depth across the roster," PFF's Brad Spielberger wrote on ESPN.com. "Before the 2021 season began, Baltimore traded away 2021 fifth-round draft pick cornerback Shaun Wade and 2020 fourth-round pick guard Ben Bredeson. Baltimore has so much talent they're excited about at each spot that it was incapable of carrying either player on their 53-man roster.

"When you're trading young players away because otherwise you'd have no choice but to cut them, and other teams are stepping up to send you draft picks, that shows just how deep your roster must be."

Quick Hits

Brown and Oweh made NFL.com's Nick Shook's list of the top 10 biggest surprises this season.

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