NFL expert Tom Selwyn (@Tom_Selwyn) shares his expert opinion on the best bets available from Sunday's Wildcard clash in Baltimore.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens | Sunday 6th January 2019, 18:05 | Sky Sports
The Chargers have to feel pretty hard done by to be on the road for this Wildcard matchup given that they ended the season at 12 – 4, but seeing as how their own home field advantage is non-existent I guess it’s the prospect of facing the Ravens for the 2nd time in 3 weeks that will concern them more than anything!
Baltimore beat them up on both sides of the ball in a 22 – 10 win in Los Angeles and my first thought is why won’t they just do that again? They boast the league’s #1 defence (allowing just 292.9 total yards a game) that held the Chargers to less than 200 yards and a running game that has overwhelmed nearly every opponent since Lamar Jackson displaced Joe Flacco at QB.
You have to imagine, though, that a team that won 12 games this season can adjust and react after a bad loss. I would be stunned if Philip Rivers and the rest of the Chargers offense was held to less than 200 yards again, especially given the blueprint the Browns put forth last week – you can attack the Ravens deep down the field and Los Angeles have the WRs in Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin to do so (they’re 5/2, 9/2 and 10/1 respectively to score a TD if that interests you). But they’ll have to give Rivers time to do so and the OL must play better if he’s to have a chance.
The defence will also be in the unique position of getting the chance to prepare for the Ravens run, run and run again attack for the 2nd time. Having the extra time and tape to prepare is one thing, stopping it is another, especially when you consider that the weakest position group the Chargers have on defence would also be the main group you’d depend on to stop the run; the linebackers. They have strong secondary play, excellent edge rushers, but have suffered a number of injuries at the LB position and could struggle to contain Jackson, Edwards and Dixon once more.
In my mind, the Chargers have to do better than last time out against the Ravens, but it will be a struggle and should be a very close game. Rivers is arguably a Hall of Fame candidate on a 12 win team and will be going against a rookie QB in his 1st playoff game – he may not be able to overcome a ferocious Ravens defence, but I can’t see him losing by double digits again and will be backing his Chargers +3.5.
Additionally, for all you hear about the Ravens run attack, I think there’s a decent play to be had on one of their TEs. Mark Andrews has seen quite an uptick in his stats of late, going for an average of 48 yards a game over the last six (and that includes a blank against the Chiefs). He’s slowly establishing himself in Baltimore’s TE committee and his line is currently sitting at 22.5 on Paddy. I’ll be having some of that as he’s becoming Jackson’s favourite target when scrambling.
These two teams have such contrasting styles and it should make for a fascinating rematch
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens – Los Angeles Chargers -3.5 (10/13 Betfred)
Los Angeles Chargers @ Baltimore Ravens – Mark Andrews Over 22.5 Receiving Yards (10/11 Paddy Power)