Flying with the Flock: Ravens vs. Chargers Preview
RAVENS VS. CHARGERS PREVIEW – This game is going to get Brandon Staley fired.
Since taking over in 2020, Staley’s Chargers have been a rudderless circus doomed to disappoint. The team’s uncanny ability to blow games in new ways every week dates back well before Staley’s time, but he’s done nothing to combat the narrative.
The unofficial flag bearer of the analytics movement, Staley has forever tarnished the word with his senseless fourth-down decisions. His relationship with the media has soured, and his weekly tantrums at the podium exude panic and frustration.
If Staley’s team were half as defensive as he is in these press conferences, the Chargers would be the No.1 seed.
I’m confident this won’t be a trap game for Baltimore. The long week, trip across the country, and primetime slot should have this team focused and ready to go.
In 2021 the Ravens dominated L.A. on the ground, totaling 187 rushing yards with a 4.9-yard average. That season, the Chargers had the third-worst rushing defense in the league, with a respectable 12th-ranked passing defense.
This season, it’s the opposite – if you want to move the ball on the chargers, throw it. L.A. ranks 30th in yards per pass allowed. On paper, Brandon Staley’s defense is built to contain the pass. He’s a Fangio disciple who ascribes to a zone-heavy, bend-but-don’t-break philosophy.
The success of this defense is predicated on the secondary’s ability to disguise itself and confuse quarterbacks long enough for a four-man rush to get home. But what happens when the secondary persistently busts coverages and the pass rush doesn’t get pressure?
Well, you get the Chargers’ current defense. It’s the worst of both worlds as the Chargers functionally take all the risks of a blitz-heavy defense without getting pressure. Staley refuses to take accountability for the defense’s gaffes, harping on the team’s failure to “execute.”
But if a relatively talented group of defensive players can’t “execute” due to mental errors, it would seem that reflects on their coach’s ability to install his scheme and put them in a position to succeed.
A Likely Hero
The Ravens’ offense looked phenomenal against the Bengals. Joe Burrow or not, hanging 34 points on a Lou Anarumo-led Bengals defense is something to be proud of.
The familiarity of division games tends to make them low-scoring affairs, so when the opportunity to run up the score presents itself, you take it.
The loss of Mark Andrews is major. Andrews leads all tight ends in touchdown receptions and has been a vital part of Baltimore’s red-zone efficiency. I believe Isaiah Likely is a highly capable backup, but the pressure is on for him and Lamar to develop chemistry ahead of the playoffs. Mark and Lamar had an almost telepathic connection on broken plays.
Losing such an intangible skill could prove costly in big moments.
Saved Justin Time
It’s odd to face one of the game’s elite quarterbacks trapped on such a dysfunctional team. Justin Herbert is a special player. However, the combination of organizational turmoil and injured teammates has clipped his wings this season.
For the Chargers to pull off the upset, it’ll take a monstrous performance from the 2020 NFL Rookie of the Year. But Herbert’s best is often not enough.
Tossing four touchdowns in a losing effort against the Lions is the most recent example of Herbert’s heroics being for naught. Losing Joey Bosa for at least four games with a sprained foot won’t help this defense hold up their end of the bargain.
The Ravens have penciled in this one as a win for a long time. It’s no secret the Ravens have fallen victim to trap games this year. Coming off an emotional win over the Bengals, it’s possible they get caught in another.
But a loss here wouldn’t be some early October gaffe, but a major blow ahead of a brutal final stretch of the regular season. With three division winners yet to play, Baltimore cannot afford to slip up against an inferior opponent.