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AFC playoff preview: Stage is set for a Philip Rivers rebound game vs. Ravens

AFC playoff preview: Stage is set for a Philip Rivers rebound game vs. Ravens
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers yells at referee Ramon George late in the game against the Ravens on Dec. 22, 2018. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Once more. With feeling.

The Chargers will get a second chance Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, a team that embarrassed them a few weeks ago in Carson.

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Baltimore won that Dec. 22 game 22-10, handing the Chargers their lowest point total of the season, limiting the Chargers to 198 yards of offense and sacking Philip Rivers four times.

The Ravens, under first-year defensive coordinator Don Martindale, allowed an NFL-low 292.2 yards per game.

That’s familiar territory for a Baltimore team that has had a top-10 defense in eight of coach John Harbaugh’s 11 seasons.

“They just never let you get comfortable as an offense. It’s always something trying to keep you off balance,” Rivers said of the Ravens.

“It’s going to be back and forth. There will be times where we pick everything up just right and do everything just right. There will be other times where we’re going to have to, again, manage all those things that they do so well.”

Youth is served

Age is just a number to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson, who has just seven NFL starts to his name and will be the youngest quarterback in league history to start a postseason game.

“I was 21 all year, so this is just another game for me,” said Jackson, who turns 22 on Monday.

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner from Louisville has sparked a Ravens revival, helping his team to victory in six of seven games as well as an AFC North title. And, the way he sees it, he’s not done.

“That win, I can taste it,” he said. “It's like Thanksgiving — you know, that food, sweet potato pie. I’m trying to taste that victory for my birthday.”

By the numbers

How teams compare statistically. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):

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Category Chargers Baltimore
CategoryPoints scored Chargers26.8 (T6) Baltimore24.3 (13)
CategoryPoints allowed Chargers20.6 (8) Baltimore17.9 (2)
CategoryPass offense Chargers255.6 (10) Baltimore222.4 (22)
CategoryRush offense Chargers117.1 (15) Baltimore152.6 (2)
CategoryPass defense Chargers227.9 (9) Baltimore210.0 (5)
CategoryRush defense Chargers105.8 (9) Baltimore82.9 (4)
CategorySacks Chargers38 (T19) Baltimore43 (T11)
CategoryPenalty yards Chargers60.4 (23) Baltimore58.8 (16)
CategoryTurnovers ChargersPlus one (T15) BaltimoreMinus three (22)

Sam Farmer’s pick

It’s so difficult to beat a team twice in rapid succession, and the Chargers were uncharacteristically awful in their first game against Baltimore.

Taking nothing from that Ravens defense, but Rivers will be better this time around.

CHARGERS 23, RAVENS 21

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