Baltimore Ravens (8-6) at Chargers (11-3)
When the Chargers have the ball
Melvin Gordon is set to rejoin the offense after missing three games because of a sprained right knee. The team’s No. 1 running back will return just in time to face the NFL’s No. 1 overall defense. Baltimore ranks first in points and yards allowed per game and third in rushing yards permitted. Gordon needs 198 yards in Weeks 16 and 17 to reach 1,000 for the season despite missing four games total because of injury. The Chargers are also likely to have wide receiver Keenan Allen back after he sat out the second half against Kansas City because of a hip issue. That would mean the addition of two reigning Pro Bowlers to a lineup that scored 15 points in the final 3:49 last week to stun the Kansas City Chiefs. The Ravens have allowed only one of their previous five opponents to top 21 points and have surrendered more than 25 points just three times all season. The Chargers are averaging 28.2 per game. Baltimore’s defense has been stout without producing turnovers. The Ravens have only 11 takeaways (seven interceptions, four fumble recoveries) on the season. Just one team, San Francisco, has fewer, and the 49ers are 4-10.
When the Ravens have the ball
This team lost four of five before Lamar Jackson replaced injured quarterback Joe Flacco. Baltimore has won four of five since. Jackson was a dual threat while winning the Heisman Trophy at Louisville. Now, he's being celebrated as more of a single threat in the NFL. The Ravens have shifted their offense to a more collegiate-looking, run-based attack. Jackson leads the team with 566 yards on the ground. For the season, Baltimore is No. 2 in rushing offense while the Chargers are ninth in stopping the run. The Ravens have topped 190 rushing yards in five straight games. The Chargers haven’t given up more than 171 yards on the ground to any one opponent. That total came against the Rams in Week 3. Jackson’s season high in passing yardage is 178, which came Nov. 25 against Oakland. That’s the only time in five starts he has thrown for more than 150 yards. He has yet to complete as many as 15 passes in a game. Philip Rivers had 14 completions in the second half alone against Kansas City. The game plan for Baltimore is to get ahead and hold the ball for as long as possible, forcing Rivers and the Chargers’ offense to stew on the sidelines.
When they kick
The nickname “Money Badger” hasn’t really stuck for Chargers rookie Michael Badgley. Gordon this week went public with his nickname for the kicker: “Money Bags.” That one would seem to have a little more potential. The Chargers just hope Badgley continues to produce at a level worthy of a nickname. He is 14 of 15 on field goals and kicked a team-record 59-yarder in his previous game at StubHub Center. The Ravens’ Justin Tucker is 28 of 30, has missed only one extra point out of 239 for his career and is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, converting 90.6% of his field goals all-time. Other than that, he’s only made nine in a row from 50 yards and farther.
Jeff Miller’s prediction
Both teams need this game for playoff positioning purposes, making it one of the NFL’s better Week 16 matchups. The Ravens are only 3-4 on the road. While they have won four of five, each of those victories came against a team that currently has a losing record. Their lone defeat during that stretch was in Kansas City in overtime, a game they probably should have won before a couple of late meltdowns. This one figures to be decided late.