Chargers vs Ravens Preview & Free Pick [October 17th 2021]

LA Chargers (4-1) at Baltimore (4-1)
When: Sunday, October 17th, 2021
Where: M&T Bank Stadium,
Baltimore, MD
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: CBS
Opening Odds: Baltimore -3/48

Over the past three seasons, the Los Angeles Chargers have not been winning many close games. This season has been different and the 4-1 Chargers head out east to take on the first place Baltimore Ravens in the marquee afternoon matchup this Sunday. Since 2019, L.A. has lost 23 one-possession games when guided by former head coach Anthony Lynn. This year, under Brandon Staley, the Chargers have won three of four such contests including last week’s wild 47-42 home win over the Cleveland Browns. The Chargers defense has been helping the team win games as well, but looking at last week’s result, the offense can step up when needed. They lead the AFC West by a game over the Raiders and Broncos, with Kansas City sitting at the bottom (2-3).

The Ravens, who are holding opponents to 23.4 points per contest, will present a challenge to the Chargers’ offense. Baltimore has already played the three other teams in the AFC West and are 2-1 with wins over Kansas City and Denver and a loss at Las Vegas in Week 1. Lamar Jackson led Baltimore to a 19-point comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts this past Monday, finishing with a career-high 442 passing yards and four touchdowns, while completing 37-of-43. Baltimore is a 2.5-point favorite to win with a total of 51.5.

The last time the two teams met was in the wild-card round of the 2018 playoffs, a 23-17 win for Los Angeles at Baltimore. L.A’s defense finished with a postseason team-record-tying seven sacks in that win over the Ravens. The Ravens hold a slight 7-5 edge when these teams play during the regular season including a 22-10 road win in 2018.

The Chargers sit fourth in the league in passing yards behind Justin Herbert, who threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns last week versus Cleveland. L.A. ranks sixth with 28.4 points a game and seventh with 411.4 total yards per contest. Herbert is fourth in the NFL in passing yards (1,576), tied for third in passing touchdowns (13) and has thrown just three interceptions in five games. Austin Ekeler is No. 6 in the NFL in yards from scrimmage (543) and tops the league with seven touchdowns along with Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. Defensively, Los Angeles is dead last in average yards allowed per game on the ground and now they’re about to face Lamar Jackson and fourth-best rushing attack in the league. However, the Chargers rank seventh in defending the pass, allowing 214.2 yards per game through the air. The Chargers are 8-1 against the spread in their last nine games overall and 4-0 ATS in their last four on the road.

Jackson dug the Ravens out of a 22-3 deficit in the second half, finishing with over 500 total yards himself. Despite missing three running backs, the Ravens are still a force in the run game because of Jackson. I mentioned Jackson’s passing numbers against the Colts, but he also ran for 62 yards on 14 carries and was name AFC Offensive Player of the Week. He’ll be facing a Chargers’ defense that allows 157.6 rushing yards per game. Jackson leads the Ravens in rushing (341 rushing yards and two touchdowns) and has also thrown for 1,519 yards and eight touchdown – ranking him eighth and fifth respectively. On the injury front, receiver Sammy Watkins did not practice on Wednesday after leaving the first half of Monday’s game due to a thigh injury and did not return. Also not practicing for the Ravens on Wednesday were tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and linebacker Pernell McPhee (rest). The Ravens placed guard Ben Cleveland (knee) on injured reserve and will miss at least the next three games.

This is a tough road game for the Chargers, but there’s a new winning culture in this organization with Staley running the show. Baltimore has not been overly impressive despite their 4-1 record and are in for a tough game on short rest. I’m picking Herbert and the Chargers to win this one. Also of note: Road underdogs of 3 points or less are 11-3 ATS this season.

Pick: Chargers +2.5
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