The Chargers opened as a 2 1/2-point underdog to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the NFL playoffs on Jan. 6, according to a preeminent oddsmaker’s line set Sunday night in Las Vegas.
Westgate Superbook Race and Sports Book Director Jay Kornegay set the over/under for the Chargers-Ravens game at 42 points. The game will be played in Baltimore at 10 a.m. PST Sunday (CBS).
“It’s evenly matched. I personally like the better defensive team, so my line was three, but it’s a consensus decision,” Kornegay told the Los Angeles Times minutes after finalizing the line. “At this stage of the season, in this matchup, I prefer the better defensive team … and there’s no comparison in the quality of the defenses. Baltimore’s is better.”
The Chargers (12-4) had the same record as the AFC top-seeded Kansas City Chiefs, a division rival the Chargers defeated at Arrowhead Stadium two weeks ago, and also boast a far more experienced quarterback in Philip Rivers while the Ravens start rookie Lamar Jackson.
“A rookie quarterback is always a concern in the playoffs. It’s a love-hate relationship with Jackson — I love him when he makes those plays” mostly by running the ball “but I hate it when he misses receivers wide open in the flat,” Kornegay said.
“The Ravens are very well coached [by John Harbaugh], however, and he’ll likely coach them through.”
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa sacks Broncos quarterback Case Keenum during a second quarter drive at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers cornerback Desmond King Jr. knocks the ball from Broncos running back Royce Freeman, causing a fumble that teammate Kyle Emmanuel returned for a touchdown at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon runs for a 19-yard gain that was nullified by a holding penalty on tight end Virgil Green (88) on a third quarter drive at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers receiver Mike Williams is twisted down by Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom after a short gain during a third-quarter drive at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers receiver Mike Williams pulls in a three-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, beating Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom in the third quarter at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Denver cornerback Isaac Yiadom intercepts a Philip Rivers pass intended for receiver Tyrell Williams in the first quarter at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler makes a cut for a 41-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Broncos.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is tackled by Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris after a two-yard gain during the fourth quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers receiver Mike Williams is tackled by Broncos cornerback Isaac Yiadom after a 14-yard pass reception during a fourth quarter drive.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. celebrates with teammate Desmond King Jr. (left) after a 100-yard interception return on a two-point conversion attempt.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Broncos defensive lineman Derek Wolfe knocks down a pass during the first quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward Jr., steps in front of Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton to intercept a two-point conversion attempt. Hayward returned it 100 yards, giving the Chargers two points.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Broncos receiver Tim Patrick can’t hold on to a pass as Chargers cornerback Micheal Davis delivers a blow during third quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Broncos quarterback Case Keenum fumbles a snap from center Conor McGovern during the third quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa dances after sacking Broncos quarterback Case Keenum in the second quarter.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers defensive backs Casey Hayward Jr. (right) Jahleel Addae and Adrian Phillips take the field for warmups before taking on the Denver Broncos at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Chargers fans line up for Joey Bosa during pregame warmups at Mile High Stadium.(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Baltimore defeated the Chargers, 22-10, two weeks ago at StubHub Center.
“Nothing against L.A. and the Chargers, but I always felt like they were overachieving all year,” Kornegay said. “I believe in Rivers — his intensity and leadership — but that Ravens defense is very, very good.”
Westgate opened the Dallas Cowboys as 2 1/2-point favorites when they host the Seattle Seahawks in a Saturday night game, with the over/under at 41.5.
“I love how both of them are playing, Kornegay said. “Seattle has been playing great for the second half. Dallas has been for the final third of the season. But Wilson has such great experience and can make so many plays.”
If he were to bet himself, Kornegay said he would take Jerry Jones’ team.
“I like the moxie of the Cowboys and their … even today, in a meaningless game, they played their butts off in a gutter battle with the Giants. It’s interesting to think about this game and think of the time these teams played when Tony Romo fumbled the snap … I feel like that matchup and this year’s matchup is similar.
“It’s just that the power ranking is superior for Seattle.”
Kornegay balked at setting a line for the Jan. 6 late game between the NFC North champion Chicago Bears and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles after Eagles quarterback Nick Foles departed Sunday’s game early with a chest injury.
The Eagles clinched the final wild-card spot Sunday by defeating the division-rival Washington Redskins, eliminating the Minnesota Vikings.
“We have to figure out what’s going on with Foles — is he in or is he out?” Kornegay said.
As the No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Chiefs stand as a 4-to-1 conference favorite to win the Super Bowl while defending AFC champion New England is 5-to-1.
With a first-round bye, the Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints are the NFL favorites to win the Super Bowl at plus 225, just over 2-to-1 odds, while the NFC West-champion Rams are tied with the Patriots at 5-to-1, as each will enjoy a first-round bye.
In the AFC, the Chargers are the 7-to-1 third choice to win the conference title behind the Patriots (plus 175) and Chiefs (plus 140).
The Rams are the second choice in the NFC at plus 250, behind the even-money Saints.
“I believe in the Saints and their balance and being at home. I have a hard time believing someone will go to New Orleans and beat the Saints,” Kornegay said.
“The AFC is more wide open, with a number of teams capable of reaching the Super Bowl. The Achilles heel for the Chiefs is their defense and they’ll miss [suspended running back Kareem] Hunt in the playoffs.”