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Ravens News 12/21: Lamar’s challenge, Week 15 predictions and more

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2018 NFL Draft - Red Carpet Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson’s prime-time challenge: Beat a top-10 defense - Jamison Hensley

Jackson has played a handful of the worst defenses in the NFL, a near-perfect initiation for the No. 32 overall pick. That fortuitous streak ends Saturday night, when Jackson faces the Los Angeles Chargers and his first top-10 defense.

Not only will this be the highest-ranked defense that Jackson will face so far, it also marks the first time a national television audience will get a look at Jackson. The Ravens continue to believe nothing has been too big for him so far, and there is no concern about Jackson playing a prime-time game with so many playoff implications on the line.

“I’m not worried about prime time,” Jackson said. “Prime time is after the game with a ‘W.’ That’s prime time.”

On paper, Los Angeles’ defense will easily be Jackson’s greatest challenge to date. They field bookend edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, a pair of shutdown corners with Casey Hayward and Desmond King, as well as All-Pro caliber safety Derwin James. The Chargers rushing defense should be vulnerable with defensive tackle Corey Liuget and inside ‘backer Denzel Perryman injured, yet their statistics have actually improved since these run defenders went on the shelf.

Chargers will reportedly have both Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon for key Week 16 game vs. Ravens - Jared Durbin

The Los Angeles Chargers’ offense will be at full strength for a key game against the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. According to a report from ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter, both wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Melvin Gordon are expected to be on the field in Week 16.

The Ravens are expected to be at full strength for this late season showdown. The only players held out of practice on Thursday were presumably given veteran rest days.

Week 16 NFL odds, picks: Texans beat Eagles, Chargers outlast Ravens, Saints get by Steelers - Ryan Wilson

Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers (-4.5)

This game has huge implications. If the Ravens lose, the Steelers will almost be assured of the AFC North title. Not only that, it would also open the door for the Colts and Titans to replace them as the conference’s No. 6 seed. The Chargers have already secured a playoff spot, but because of tiebreakers they’re only the fifth seed. A win against the Ravens coupled with a Chiefs loss to the Seahawks means L.A. would move atop the division and be in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye in the process. Added bonus: The Chargers are expected to get Melvin Gordon back for Saturday’s game.

Pick: Chargers 20, Ravens 17

NFL Week 16 odds, picks: Chargers over Ravens, Titans rout Redskins, Eagles top Texans - Pete Prisco

Baltimore at Los Angeles Chargers (-4.5)

This is one of the big games this week with two teams that need it. This is a long trip for the Ravens on a short week against a team with extra rest. I think the Chargers are on a roll right now and they will limit Lamar Jackson. The Chargers will take it.

Pick: Chargers 23, Ravens 13

NFL Week 16 game picks: ‘Hawks nip Chiefs; Saints top Steelers - Elliott Harrison

Los Angeles Chargers 26, Baltimore Ravens 24

Great game out west, all the way around. The Chargers’ uber-aggressive edge defenders had better stay home more often than not with Lamar Jackson back there for Baltimore. The Ravens got off to a slow start last week before piling up 165 rushing yards in the second half to steal the Bucs’ booty. In order to steal this road game, and stay in front in the wild-card race (if not jump to the top of the AFC North), the Ravens must chew up yards and clock on the ground, and not let Philip Rivers get hot. The beauty of limiting the opposition to, say, eight possessions: If the Bolts come out sluggish, they will lack the drives to get in gear. Doubly important, considering Rivers’ backfield mates are banged up (although Melvin Gordon’s returning to action this week). When the Chargers do mount a drive, don’t think Baltimore has a corner who can box up Mike Williams in the red zone, other than maybe Jimmy Smith -- who will presumably be manning Keenan Allen. However it plays out, love this matchup.

It is difficult to fault Wilson, Prisco and Harrison for picking the home team to win. The Chargers 11-3 mark is tied for the best in the conference. They are a well-rounded squad that will also have the benefit of extra preparation time following their Week 15 Thursday night victory.