Keep it here on Baltimore Beatdown all throughout this afternoon's week 2 game of the 2009 NFL season between two 1-0 teams, the Baltimore Ravens and San Diego Chargers. Both teams are coming off of wins that were closer than either team expected, yet were still able to pull out victories when the pressure was on them.
Check back with us here at The Beatdown to see our comments and post your thoughts as well as you watch the game unfold. While Baltimore is a three point underdog, many people are still expecting a Ravens victory, as we look to be going into this game stronger and healthier than the Chargers. Besides, when a visiting team is just a three point 'dog, that pretty much means the game is dead even, with the FG advantage to the home team. I'm probably not the only one who hopes it doesn't come down to the kicking game, but that would be a great confidence booster for Ravens placekicker Steven Hauschka, who appeared to be shaky last week in going one for two in his attempts.
How do I see this game going?
(More on 'Predictions ..." after the 'Jump')The Chargers will be limited or without a bunch of key components to their team. Foremost will be the loss of running back LaDainian Tomlinson, but his backups, Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett plan on making that loss insignificant. Either way, I don't see the Chargers running game getting untracked against this Ravens defense, although the short swing passes and screens to Sproles could give us fits if we don't blow them up early before he gets into space. San Diego also has injuries on the offensive line, which doesn't bode well for them against the Ravens' front seven.
Defensive lineman Jamal Charles has not only been ruled out for the game, but was placed on Injured Reserve yesterday, ending his 2009 season. Combined with a less than 100% Shawne Merriman, the San Diego defense has shown a tendency to give passers time to pick apart their secondary, as evidenced by the success that Oakland Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell had last week in their near upset. The Chargers defensvie backs are solid cover men, but give any QB in this league enough time and he'll find the open receiver. Joe Flacco has found that Todd Heap does indeed get open and can catch the ball when thrown to him and he has enjoyed decent success against San Diego, as I have the signed photo hanging in my Ravens-themed basement of him diving across the goal line in the last minute thrilling victory over the Chargers here in Baltimore back in 2006. Combined with the deep threat of Mark Clayton and the best possession receiver in the league in Derrick Mason, expect the Ravens passing attack to continue their aggressive playcalling and test the Chargers secondary early and often.
Don't forget our running game which racked up almost 200 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs and plan on getting a lot of work today as well. The Ravens have their own answer to the Chargers' speedy Sproles in the form of small but game breaking Ray Rice, who went over 100 yards last week and is also a threat out of the backfield. Both Willis McGahee (2 TD's last week) and LeRon McClain figure to get the rock a bunch of times this afternoon to test the trenches of San Diego.
Defensively, expect to get a heavy dose of Chargers QB Philip Rivers, throwing to a bevy of receivers, most dangerlous the combination of WR Vincent Jackson and TE Antonio Gates. Both guys are tall and present difficult matchups for our pass defense. Both are too fast for the bigger guys to match up against and too strong for the speed guys to cover one-on-one. Therefore, the key will be help from the safeties in back of them and more importantly, pressure from the guys up front. Pass pressure on Rivers will cause him to release the ball before his receivers break from their patterns and limit the long completions and big plays. Frustrate Rivers with stunts and blitzes, put him on the ground early and he will get angry and start yapping like he is prone to. Force him to adjust his drops and timing and he can throw interceptions or put the ball on the ground for the Ravens to jump on and create the short field that this defense has been able to do for the offense.
The good news is that this offense is fully capable of moving the ball on their own and we shall see that this was not a specific case of being able to move it against a weak defense in Kansas City. In terms that will certainly raise the ire of the Chargers faithful who visit The Beatdown to read this, I firmly believe that San Diego is highly overrated, playing in arguably the worst division in the NFL and still barely made the post season last year. The Baltimore Ravens are on a mission to make not only the playoffs but have every intention of advancing further than they did last season. While any away game in the NFL is a tough one and this may be one for most of the game, I see the Ravens physically pounding the Chargers on both sides of the balll and forcing turnovers that they use to put enough points on the board to frustrate the opponent into giving the ball up in key situations.
Although I don't expect this to be a shootout, the Ravens will score on the Chargers defense enough to win the game and the defense will ensure that the points hold up to leave San Diego at 2-0 and firmly announce to the league that they are among the NFL's elite.