1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Chargers

1st and 10: Ten predictions for Ravens-Chargers
November 24, 2012, 8:15 pm
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1. Ray Rice will not rush for 100 yards.

Rice has totaled just 75 rushing yards in the past two games and has topped 100 yards twice this season – 102 yards against Kansas City and 101 against New England. The Chargers rank No. 3 against the run, allowing 87.9 yards a game, and just one back (Trent Richardson) has topped the 100-yard mark against them.

2. Joe Flacco will throw an interception….
Flacco has been much better at home than on the road, but he has led the Ravens to two straight road wins (Cleveland, Pittsburgh). One key: In those two games he threw 56 passes without an interception. That run will end against a Chargers secondary that has nine interceptions this season, including four that have been returned for touchdowns.

 3. … but so will Philip Rivers.

Rivers has been hurt throughout his career, and this season, by occasionally ill-advised throws. He has thrown eight interceptions in four home games this season, including four in that epic meltdown against Denver, when the Chargers built a 24-0 halftime lead and then lost, 35-24. Rivers figures to challenge the Ravens depleted secondary, but they will make him pay at least once.

 4. Torrey Smith will have a catch of 25+ yards.

Smith was virtually invisible at Pittsburgh last week, held without a catch until a 7-yard grab late in the game. The Ravens want to stretch the field with their speed guys, and Flacco is going to take his shots. Smith caught a 36-yard touchdown pass against the Chargers last season.

5. The Ravens will convert on less than 35 percent of their third-down plays.

The Ravens have struggled to move the chains all season, and John Harbaugh acknowledged that this week, saying, “We aren’t as good on third down as we need to be. That’s something that we really have to get better at. We’ve known that.”  The Ravens rank 23rd in third-down percentage, converting 34.4 percent of the time. The struggles have been especially pronounced on the road (29.4 percent). Last week at Pittsburgh, the Ravens were 3-for-14 on third down, including 0-for-4 when needing 3 yards or fewer.

6. Philip Rivers will throw for more than 250 yards.

Rivers carved up the Ravens secondary last season, completing 17 of 23 for 270 yards in the Chargers’ 34-14 rout. He won’t be quite as accurate this time around, but the Ravens run defense has improved and Rivers still wants to throw the ball around. In 10 games this year, Rivers is averaging 246.1passing yards.

7. The Chargers will score a red zone touchdown.

The Ravens’ red zone defense has been at the heart of their success, as they have given up yardage but frequently stiffened near their goal line. The Ravens rank No. 1 in the league in red zone defense, allowing a touchdown on just 35.1 percent of their opponents’ possessions inside the Ravens 20-yard line. They have not allowed a red zone touchdown in three games, a streak of nine straight possessions. The streak has to end sometime, and it will be in this game.

8. The Ravens will have at least two sacks.

Paul Kruger is coming off perhaps his best game, as he destroyed Steelers rookie tackle Mike Adams. Kruger recorded a sack and generally made himself a menace in the Steelers backfield. Terrell Suggs still isn’t 100 percent, and Pernell McPhee (thigh) is questionable. But the Chargers have issues up front as well. Former Raven Jared Gaither’s injury-riddled season is over, as he’s been placed on injured reserve, and starting guard Tyronne Green is doubtful. The Chargers have allowed 26 sacks this season, tied for ninth-most in the league.   

 9. Jacoby Jones will have a kickoff return of at least 35 yards.

San Diego has been among the best kickoff cover teams in the league, with opponents starting, on average, at their 20.6-yard line. But Jones is having a Pro Bowl-type season, and any time he touches the ball there’s a good chance something good will happen. Credit, too, goes to the Ravens kick team, with lead blockers such as Anthony Allen creating great lanes for Jones to shoot through.

 10. Ravens 24, Chargers 20     

This has all the makings of a trap game –- a West Coast trip stuck in between a pair of games against the Steelers. The Ravens generally have not played well on the West Coast or on the road, but they are playing a Chargers team that is reeling. The Ravens will struggle but will have enough to beat a Chargers team that keeps finding ways to lose.