3TFO: Ravens @ Chargers, Week 12
As the 8-2 Ravens surge into the end of the season, the 4-6 Chargers’ campaign is falling apart at the seams. Baltimore heads to San Diego a different style of team compared to previous seasons. Lacking a consistent pass rush, and with key injuries on defense, the offense has been forced to step up, and they have responded. Ray Rice has certainly helped that cause by frustrating defenses with both his rushing and receiving ability. He has gained 1.60 yards per route run on 40 catches as he continues to be one of the league’s top duel threats. He will need to factor heavily to keep the offense on track.
As for the Chargers, their offense needs to be re-charged. With poor pass protection and inconsistent quarterback play from Philip Rivers, the passing game has been an issue all season for the Bolts. Denario Alexander (+5.2) has given the offense a lift since signing in midseason, but it will take more than that to get the offense going. Rivers will need to cut down on the turnovers to be able to keep up in this contest.
Chargers Offensive Line vs. Ravens Pass Rush
While San Diego has more than a few problems on the offensive side of the ball, a lot of them are due to poor offensive line play. No offensive lineman has been worse on a per-snap basis than reserve left tackle Michael Harris, who has allowed 39 QB disruptions in only 241 pass blocking snaps. He has also been flagged six times and grades negatively as a run blocker, so the Chargers would love to get Jared Gaither back from injury. Right tackle Jeromey Clary has not been as unproductive as previous seasons, but he ranks 48th in Pass Block Efficiency with a 93.6. With Rivers only completing 47.7% of passes thrown while under pressure, the offensive line will need to offer more protection.
As for the Ravens’ defense, most of the pressure off the edge has come from linebacker Paul Kruger. His 28 QB pressures leads the team. Courtney Upshaw was drafted with high expectations and has been a fantastic run defender, but he has managed only 14 pressures on 240 attempts. His Pass Rush Productivity of 4.9 is dead last among qualifying 3-4 outside linebackers. Luckily, Baltimore has got pressure up the middle from defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. They have to continue to excel if Baltimore cannot get pressure off the edge.
Ravens Receivers vs. Chargers Secondary
The Ravens have enjoyed balanced success out of many of their pass catchers. Torrey Smith has opened up the deep passing game, as he leads receivers with 31 targets of 20 yards or more. Veteran Anquan Boldin continues to produce at age 32, as he is the team’s highest rated player in the pass game (+8.4). Tight end Dennis Pitta has been one of the most reliable receiving options, as he leads tight ends with a 2.56 drop rate. These weapons, combined with the previously mentioned Rice, pose a tough matchup for defenses.
San Diego will try to stop the Raven passing attack with their lowest rated category, pass coverage. Eric Weddle has been stellar in every aspect of our grading, but he does not have much help. Fellow starting safety Atari Bigby is our 52nd ranked safety, largely due to owning the third-highest pass yards per coverage snap allowed at 1.23. Antoine Cason is suffering through a tough season, as quarterbacks have thrown five touchdowns to only two interceptions when going his way, good for a 107.7 QB rating.
Chargers Running Backs vs. Ravens Front Seven
If there is one thing Rivers loves, it is dumping the ball off to his running backs. Ronnie Brown has been targeted 40 times by Rivers this year, and he has caught all 37 of the catchable passes. Combine those with Ryan Mathews’ 30 catches, and you have 67 0f 228 completions to two running backs. Mathews has been able to do more with his touches than any other San Diego runner in 2012. His 20 missed tackles gives him an Elusive Rating of 35.0, good for eighth among running backs. He is also averaging 2.75 yards after contact per attempt, good for a tie for fifth among running backs, and higher than any other Charger.
While the loss of Ray Lewis was seen as detrimental to the Ravens’ defense, that really is not the case. Dannell Ellerbe has been a stout run defender and has managed a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Haloti Ngata leads the Baltimore defensive line, playing over 200 more saps than any other lineman and racking up 18 stops. Pernell McPhee has been solid in a less featured role, compiling 11 stops in 350 plays. These players will be key in keeping the Bolts’ running backs at bay and creating long down and distance situations for their offense.
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