The Ravens and Chargers both escaped out of week one 1-0 last Sunday. While the Ravens piled up 501 yards on the KC Chiefs, the Chargers struggled mightily on both sides of the ball against the Oakland Raiders. QB Phillip Rivers led the Chargers on a come from behind victory with a little less than a minute to play on Monday night. The real test for both teams will be this week in San Diego at 4:15 PM.
The Chargers are coming into the game a tad gimpy with two starting offensive lineman injured. Most importantly, their one in a generation running back LaDainian Tomlinson is injured and will most likely be limited in the game. Enter RB Darren Sproles. The shifty back from Kansas State can really fly and is especially dangerous in the return game and out of the backfield. The Ravens defense will need to account for him wherever he goes. The same goes for Tight End Antonio Gates. Gates is a physical beast who can run, block, and make tough catches in traffic. He is a hard matchup for linebackers because of his speed. Look for safety Ed Reed to shade to Gates throughout the afternoon.
The Ravens come into this game more confident than ever with developing star Joe Flacco. The Delaware product has done nothing but get better each and every week since he was thrust into the lineup as a rookie in 2008. Flacco now has a few weapons of his own in Running backs Ray Rice, Willis McGahee, and short yardage/fullback LeRon McClain. A finally healthy tight end Todd Heap is now playing the way he did when he was a Pro Bowl player in the mid-2000's. Where the Ravens must attack is through the air. The Chargers ranked 2nd to last in pass defense in 2008, and judging by their performance in Oakland on Monday night that stat doesn't look like it will change too soon. The Ravens offensive line must account for Charger Lineback Shawne Merriman at all times. Look for the Ravens to throw early to get a lead and then run and grind it out in the late third and fourth quarters.
The Ravens are coming off of a game in which they almost gave the game away. Everything that could have gone wrong did---yet they still pulled the game out with huge plays in the fourth quarter. The Chargers were dominated by the Raiders offensive and defensive lines. In the NFL, it all starts in the trenches. Phillip Rivers is a premier player in the league, but he doesn't have enough help as Flacco does. I'm looking at a very close game until the fourth quarter when the Ravens run away with it.
Ravens 27 Chargers 20