Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) at Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
January 6, 2019 at 1:05 PM ET (M&T Stadium)
Lines and Odds: Chargers +135, O/U 41
Free ESPN NFL Pick Baltimore Ravens vs. Los Angeles Chargers
After 17 weeks of action-packed, exciting football, it’s now officially Wild Card Weekend. One of the many exciting games happening this weekend is a rematch between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens.
The Baltimore Ravens have been on a tear ever since Lamar Jackson took the reigns as the starting quarterback. Since Jackson has been the starter, the Ravens have gone 6-1 in their last seven games, including a victory in Week 16 against the Chargers. Jackson has emerged as a dynamic threat for the Ravens. His passer rating hasn’t been that impressive, sitting at a measly 84.5, but he is dangerous in the running game, giving Baltimore a new dimension on offense that they were lacking with Joe Flacco. He’s hit double-digit rushing attempts in every game he’s started and has rushed for over 90 yards in three of his seven starts. He also has four touchdowns on the ground in those starts. The most impressive part of this Baltimore team is the defense. The defense is second in points allowed per game at 17.9 and first in yards allowed at 292.9. Their stout defense is one of the main reasons the Ravens beat the Chargers 22-10 in their most recent game. Philip Rivers and company will have to figure out how to get past this Baltimore defense if they want to advance.
The Los Angeles Chargers finished the regular season with one of the best records in the league at 12-4. They enter the weekend with the best record among wild card teams and could have won the AFC West if the Chiefs hadn’t won their final game of the season against the Raiders. Instead, they have to travel to Baltimore to face off against a team that stifled them just two weeks ago. But that might not actually be a bad thing. Interestingly, the Chargers have actually played better on the road this season than at home. They’re 7-1 on the road this season, with their lone loss coming against the Rams in September. Their net yards per play is 1.2 on the road, good for first in the league. They average 5.3 yards per carry on the road, a vast improvement over the 4.1 they average at home. The Chargers haven’t exactly felt the positive effects of having home-field advantage since they moved to Los Angeles, so it may actually be advantageous for the Chargers to play on the road against a Ravens squad that beat them in L.A. It is an interesting trend to pay attention to for this game.
Cover the Spread 365 Trends
Los Angeles Chargers
7-1 S/U and ATS on the road this season
5-1 ATS in last six playoff games as road underdogs
6-0 ATS on the road in conference games this season
1-5 ATS in last six home games
3-3 ATS in home conference games this season
Rookie QBs are 1-5 S/U in playoff games since 2012
ESPN NFL Scores Los Angeles Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens
It’s tempting to take the Ravens to beat the Chargers this weekend and advance in the playoffs. They’re riding a hot streak right now and have played exceptionally well on defense while remaining dynamic and interesting on offense. They also have the home-field advantage in this one, so they should be a sure thing, right? Maybe not. The Chargers have been better on the road this season than at home and have a little extra motivation to move on after missing out on that top seed. Los Angeles is one of the most balanced teams in the league, consistently bringing it on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers is having one of his best seasons ever and has some explosive weapons at his disposal in Melvin Gordon and Keenan Allen. On the defensive side, Derwin James is having a fantastic rookie season, and Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are menaces on the edge.
On top of all this, while Lamar Jackson has been electric as the starting quarterback, he has struggled passing the ball this season, completing only 58.2% of his passes. Along with this, as noted above, rookie quarterbacks have not had a lot of luck in the playoffs, going 1-5 straight up since 2012. This Chargers team is one you don’t want to mess with, and they’ll be looking for revenge against this Baltimore squad. The Chargers’ money line at +135 seems like the smart play in this one.
Pick: Chargers +135