LA Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens Defense/Special Teams Analysis
This Wild Card weekend matchup will feature two of the best defenses and special teams in the AFC, and today we’ll be breaking down both. Both of these units really got stronger as the year went on, and both defenses played well when these teams first met a few weeks ago. Here’s what you can from our Chargers vs. Baltimore Ravens Defense/Special Teams Analysis.
The Chargers’ defense wasn’t playing up to their potential at the beginning of the season, but got stronger as the year went on. They were missing star defensive end Joey Bosa for the first half of the season, but he returned and dominated for the second half. The 23 year old finished with 5.5 sacks in seven games on a bad foot, and together with Melvin Ingram forms one of the best defensive end duos in the league.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, their run defense is pretty banged up. They’re already without their best defensive tackle Corey Liuget and their best linebacker Denzel Perryman, and now they just lost another starting linebacker Jatavis Brown. They’ll be very thin at linebacker for this game, and will be counting on some backups to step up in the running game.
In the secondary they have a solid group of corners led by Casey Hayward, Desmond King, and Michael Davis. Hayward is one of the best cornerbacks in the league, and should provide solid coverage throughout this one. The Chargers should be able to shut down Lamar Jackson through the air, but unfortunately what the Ravens really want to do is run the ball. That’s the Chargers’ weakness right now, so I’m worried about how their defense will hold up. One positive working for them is that they’ve already played against the Ravens, and will be the first team to see Jackson twice, so their preparation will be easier.
The Chargers’ special teams aren’t awful for the first time in a long time. They’ve finally found a somewhat consistent kicker in Michael Badgley, and King has played really well as a return man, taking one to the house in the team’s crucial win over the Steelers. Their punter, Donnie Jones, has really struggled and is one of the team’s weaknesses, which could lead them to lose the field position battle.
The Ravens’ defense had a few shaky games early in the year, but they’ve cemented themselves as one of the top units in the league recently. They blitz and play a ton of cover zero, and their pass-rush made life miserable for Philip Rivers in the first meeting between these two squads. Rivers is such a great quarterback that it’ll be hard to shut him down twice, and it’ll be interesting to see how they switch things up this time around.
The Ravens have a ton of confidence in their secondary to play tight smothering one on one coverage, which allows them to blitz so often. Their defense hasn’t been used to playing from behind recently, so it’ll be very important for them not to allow the Chargers to have early success.
Although it may not seem like it, this Ravens defense does have some weaknesses. They’re occasionally susceptible to big plays from teams that can spread them out, as we saw a little bit against the Browns last week and against the Panthers earlier this year. Baker Mayfield threw for 376 yards and averaged nearly nine yards per attempt against them, and the Chargers certainly have the skill position players to spread them out.
Eric Weddle has played well at safety this season, and will once again be looking for revenge against his former team. Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith has come out of nowhere this season to lead the team with 8.5 sacks, and the Ravens have been getting it done by developing a bunch of lesser known players. Brandon Williams is one of the league’s better interior linemen, and will make it very hard for Melvin Gordon to run here.
The Ravens’ special teams are, as usual, excellent. Justin Tucker is still the best kicker in the league and Sam Koch does a good job as their punter. They have a definite edge over the Chargers in the kicking game, and Tucker vs. Badgley is an insane mismatch even though Badgley has played well lately.
The bottom line:
Both of these teams are great on defense. It’s hard to pick who has a clear edge on this side of the ball, but you probably have to give it to the Ravens because of the Chargers’ injuries. Both defenses have a ton of speed and play with a lot of confidence, and this might be the best defensive game of the playoffs.