San Diego Chargers (7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. Baltimore Ravens (7-4 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)
NFL Week 13
Date and Time: Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 1:00PM EST
Where: MT&T Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
by Scott, NFL Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SD +5.5/BALT -5.5
Over/Under Total: 46
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In a big AFC matchup between 7-4 teams, the San Diego Chargers make the trip to MT&T Stadium to face the Baltimore Ravens. Neither team is leading their division and would be hard-pressed to do so with a lot of traffic of good teams in their respective divisions. So both teams need to keep winning. Both squads have won 2 in a row, with the Ravens beating the Saints on Monday in the Superdome, 34-27. The Chargers, meanwhile, held off a spirited challenge from the Rams on Sunday, winning 27-24.
The Chargers had fallen into a bit of funk after losing 3 straight games before the bye week. But the extra rest came in handy and they now look to finish with a bang. Still, after barely beating Oakland a few weeks ago and needing a late interception to keep the Rams from scoring a go-ahead touchdown on Sunday, were not seeing the same Chargers team that had people so excited during their 5-game winning streak.
The Ravens have also has some rough patches. They fell to 5-4 after consecutive division losses, but wins over the Titans and the Saints have them feeling optimistic again. No team in the AFC North is worse than 7-4. And with the wild-card playoff picture already looking congested, Baltimore needs to keep winning. In their last 5 wins, they have beaten teams that were all under the .500 mark. Here, they will need to beat a good team.
In this league, winning is the bottom line. But San Diego simply hasnt looked the same in recent weeks. Earlier in the season, QB Philip Rivers was effortlessly spraying the ball around to a full cast of playmakers. Injuries were rampant, but someone always seemed to fill in without missing a beat. The defense was getting big stops and showed a knack for making big plays–creating turnovers and even scoring points. There was a naturalness to it and they seemed to latch onto something good.
As weeks passed, however, the Chargers became less-resilient to injuries, as the personnel losses became too much to withstand. At some positions, they were going 4-deep on the depth chart, including the center and running back positions. They now have 3 centers on IR with rookie Chris Watt now starting and well see how he does in his first big road game. His recent experience at center is negligible. Rivers performances have started to dip, as he is now officially banged up. There are some major concerns with this offense.
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Heading into the final 5 games, the Chargers may be primed for a spurt. They have started getting some key pieces back into the fold. It was hard to not notice how getting Ryan Mathews back seemed to really give the offense a new dimension on Sunday, showing you dont miss something until its gone. A healthy and vital Mathews could be key. Melvin Ingram is a force on defense and came back well on Sunday. With some more people making their way back into the rotation, things could pick up for San Diego.
The Ravens could also be poised for a big finish to the season. All year, it seems like they have what it takes to put together a truly big winning streak, but they always hit a snag in the fence. But theres no doubting that theyre worth watching, a team that could do a lot of damage this season. Justin Forsett has been an animal at running back and with 182 yards and a pair of touchdown runs against the Saints on Sunday, he is nearing 1000 yards and has been better than Ray Rice would have been in all likelihood. QB Joe Flacco is having one of his better seasons and has really benefitted from the addition of WR Steve Smith, who seems reborn in the Baltimore system.
The Baltimore defense is able to pressure opposing quarterbacks, with veterans Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil getting the job done, with Dumervil 2nd in the NFL with 12.5 sacks. Against the run, they are 5th in the league, but they have been exploitable aerially, ranking 29th. Still, they are 5th in the league in points allowed with just 18.9 per game. Meanwhile, their offense is 6th in scoring at nearly 27 points per game.
One would be within their rights in considering Baltimore a really good team and a candidate to go really far this season. And there are still a lot of guys on that sideline who were celebrating a Super Bowl win not too long ago. But other than Cleveland and Pittsburgh, they have been beating up on some bad teams. And with two losses to Cincinnati and defeats to the Colts and Steelers, beating the better teams has been a struggle.
After a bye, which was followed by a pair of home games, the Chargers should be up for this game from an energy and urgency standpoint. Its just that their recent road form is a bit troubling, having been outscored 72-21 in losses to the Dolphins and Broncos in games leading up to the bye. One should expect a better road version of the Chargers this Sunday. The Ravens are coming off the short week, but had a bye week before that and should be pumped and ready to go in what is really a big game.
An 8-4 record is so much more promising than a 7-5 mark and thats what is at stake in this game. The winner is poised for a likely postseason appearance barring a late collapse, while the loser goes into a crowded wild card pack. Its just a game where picking a winner is so difficult. Coherent cases can be made on the behalf of both sides. Im compelled to take the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the San Diego Chargers plus 5.5 points.