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Ravens @ Chargers: Preview & Prediction

The Ravens fly west to face the Chargers and hope to extend San Diego's tough times against a team that historically has given Baltimore fits.

Donald Miralle

The San Diego Chargers might be 4-6 and virtually out of the playoff race, sitting three games behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. However, this is one team that has always made it tough for the Baltimore Ravens. The one time in recent memory that the Chargers played in Baltimore, it took a Steve McNair to Todd Heap TD pass in the closing moments of a 2006 win. Since then, the Ravens always seem to play in San Diego and have a tough time.

Ray Lewis sealed a 2009 Ravens victory over the Chargers with a classic tackle on fourth down on RB Darren Sproles but the Chargers absolutely destroyed the Ravens last year on national TV 34-14. QB Philip Rivers always racks up huge stats against this defense and while the Ravens couldn't care less about individual stats, they'll gladly give up the yards rather than the points.

This game is in the middle of the sandwich known as two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh last week, 13-10, and face them in Baltimore next Sunday afternoon. They better concentrate on this week's opponent or could easily suffer the same embarrassment as they did last year.

The Chargers and Rivers specifically, lead the league in giving up the ball involuntarily. The Ravens would like nothing better than to continue that trend and a few well-timed interceptions should be what is needed to end the trend and win this game for Baltimore. San Diego has shot itself in the feet over and over again, blowing leads and getting slammed in the process by their fans and media.

This could be one game that the Ravens defense does not get gouged by an opponent's running attack, as the Chargers run game is virtually non-existent. That should allow Terrell Suggs, Paul Kruger and company to pin their ears back and harass Rivers into putting the ball where he prefers it not go, into the hands of Ed Reed, Cary Williams and the Ravens defenders.

That could, and should be the difference in the game Sunday. Unfortunately, one just can't on the Ravens offense winning a game on the road all by itself so this is a classic situation for the "old" Ravens defense, the one that has been a turnover machine in recent years, to show up. Of course, it would also be a great time to see QB Joe Flacco go off and rack up a great game on the road and combine with the defense to do to San Diego what the New England Patriots did to the New York Jets last night.

In fact, all three visiting teams won big on Thanksgiving Day and a similar result would be a nice change of pace from all the heart-stopping Ravens road games we've witnessed this season. The more likely scenario is another down-to-the-final-possession game like the others so far in 2012.

The good news is that the Ravens are the better team on both sides of the ball and regardless of some of the tough losses they've suffered, they usually find a way to win these games despite playing below their level of expectations going into the game.

This game will be no different but the Ravens should pull it out in the end. A typical close call, much closer than the game should be, but another Ravens win to keep them ahead of the pack in the AFC North and remain a game behind the Houston Texans in the race for the #1 seed in the AFC (thanks for nothing, Detroit Lions!).

Ravens: 23-20

NOTE: Post your best guess on the final score in Saturday's "Predict The Score" Contest.

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