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Why we’re picking the Chargers to win their rematch with the Ravens in the Wild Card Round

The Chargers offense will try to avoid another pitiful showing against Baltimore’s top-ranked defense.

Baltimore Ravens v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers will hit the road to face the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon in a Wild Card Round matchup. We might have a pretty good idea of what the game could look like before it even kicks offs.

That’s because they met very recently, in Week 16 of the regular season, and it was a fairly ugly game. They’re familiar with each other, but should we expect more of the same going into the matchup? Not necessarily — let’s dive in.

What happened the first time the Chargers and Ravens played

The Chargers were held to under 200 yards of offense for the first time since 2014, as Philip Rivers threw for just 181 yards with no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Lamar Jackson, meanwhile, threw for 204 yards and a touchdown with no picks, and also rushed for 39 yards.

The Ravens won the game, 22-10, by rarely allowing Rivers to get comfortable while also holding the Chargers to just 51 yards rushing as a team. Baltimore finished with 159 yards rushing, 92 yards of which came from Gus Edwards.

It was the worst offensive showing for the Chargers, who also allowed Rivers to be sacked four times a loss of 34 yards. Jackson was sacked three times, but only lost 2 yards in the process.

What’s different now?

These teams JUST played each other, so there aren’t any major changes, but we’ve got some points to discuss.

  • The biggest is that Melvin Gordon is further removed from his MCL sprain and is expected to perform better than the 41 yards he put up in the first meeting. That game was his first one back from the injury.
  • The first game was a Chargers home game, but this one will be in Baltimore, where the Ravens hold a 6-2 record. The Chargers, though, have not lost a single game this season outside of Los Angeles. They fell to the Rams in an “away” game, but are otherwise 7-0 on the road this season.
  • Rivers isn’t the most successful playoff quarterback (4-5 as a starter in the postseason), but he’s been there five times before. This time, it could finally be his chance to leave a legacy.
  • Speaking of Rivers, he also knows full well that his first outing against the Ravens this season wasn’t just a poor performance from him, but his worst of the year.
  • Jackson is set to be the youngest quarterback ever to start a playoff game. The stakes are very high, and that will be new pressure for Jackson, who seems to get better with each game he plays.

So what’s gonna happen Sunday?

Chargers fans seem a lot more confident than Ravens fans despite the first outing. In the latest FanPulse survey of who will win on Sunday, 65 percent of those responding think the Chargers will win it.

Either way, it could be a very close game, as some advanced stats point to these two teams perhaps being the best in the AFC.

In SB Nation’s picks for the Wild Card Round, the six human experts were split on the matchup, with three picking Baltimore and three picking Los Angeles. The OddsShark computer and the coin, our two non-human pickers, both went with the Ravens.

Overall, despite the Chargers’ history of bad luck, we feel more confident in their playoff chances this than the Ravens’.

Score prediction: Chargers 13, Ravens 10. Jackson is facing a repeat opponent for the first time in his NFL career, giving LA a little extra latitude in shutting him down. Getting Melvin Gordon back helps just enough to push the Chargers one step closer to Rivers’ first Super Bowl.