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Ravens News 10/15: Tackling Issues and more

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NFL: AFC Wild Card-Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has a short week before a big game vs. Chargers. That might not be a bad thing. - Jonas Shaffer

The Ravens have lost just once on a short week since 2016. That can have its downsides, coach John Harbaugh joked Wednesday.

“You know what the guys will say,” he said. “‘You should always have a short week. Why are we spending so much time at this stuff?’”

Over three-plus seasons in Baltimore, Jackson is 8-0 in short-week games, excelling in everything from Sunday-to-Thursday turnarounds to Monday-to-Sunday swings to illness-related limitations.

“We love football here,” he said Wednesday. “We’re ready to play our next opponent anyways. It’s just a quick turnaround to just get dialed in on the next opponent. That’s it. There’s nothing to it.”

“Our guys recover, they work on it, they get to work on the game plan,” Harbaugh said. “We do a pretty good job of pacing the practices out, I think, and try to get the guys to the game as energetic as they can be. But beyond that, you’ve just got to go play the game, and the players have to play well and find a way to win the game.”

Ravens Looking to Tackle Defensive Issues - Clifton Brown

It’s uncharacteristic to see the Ravens ranked 24th in overall defense heading into Week 6 of the NFL season. But that’s Baltimore’s situation, after giving up 513 yards of offense against the Indianapolis Colts on “Monday Night Football.”

Now the Ravens are preparing to face the Los Angeles Chargers (4-1) on Sunday, led by a talented young quarterback in Justin Herbert who is setting the NFL ablaze. Herbert has thrown for more yards this season than anyone except Tom Brady, Derek Carr and Matthew Stafford, and only Patrick Mahomes (16) and Brady (15) have thrown more touchdown passes than Herbert (13).

“We didn’t play to our standard defensively,” Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. “I think everybody’s well aware of that. But I think the thing that impresses me about this defense is, just their will to win at the end of the game. Their intensity and how they finish these games. It shouldn’t go unrecognized. There was never any quit in any individual.

“Do we need to work on our angles? Yes. Do we need to finish some tackles? Yes, and we’re constantly working on it. Every week’s going to be a new challenge and this is going to be a big one.”

NFL Week 6: Key matchups and storylines for all 14 games - Ben Linsey

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS @ BALTIMORE RAVENS (-3)

Matchup to watch: Ravens’ rushing attack vs. Chargers’ run defense

The Ravens fielded the NFL’s best rushing offense by a wide margin in each of Lamar Jackson‘s first two seasons as a full-time starter. Baltimore was the only team in the league to average over five yards per designed run play (5.2) across the 2019 and 2020 seasons. That is over a full yard lower through five weeks this year (4.2 yards per run play), but Los Angeles represents a get-right opportunity.

The Chargers have allowed a half-yard more per run play on average (5.5 yards) than any other defense in the league. Their interior defensive line just hasn’t held up, and that could quickly become an issue against even this weakened Baltimore rushing offense.

Biggest storyline: Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert both look to continue their push for MVP

Jackson (87.1 PFF grade) and Herbert (90.0 PFF grade) represent two of PFF’s five highest-graded passers entering this Week 6 battle of teams jockeying for position in the AFC playoff picture.

That designation is particularly noteworthy for Jackson, who has shown that he should not be viewed as someone who can only win with his legs. He has been excellent as a passer through the first five weeks of the 2021 season, including when playing from behind. As PFF’s Arjun Menon wrote this week, Jackson has an 84.0 passing grade when trailing in 2021, which had been an area of concern in years past.

NFL picks against the spread - Sheil Kapadia

Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens (-3) | 1 p.m. ET Sunday, CBS

The Ravens delivered an amazing comeback win against the Colts on Monday night, but on a certain level, I feel like we got robbed of a truly spectacular ending. How great would it have been if John Harbaugh had Lamar Jackson take a knee in overtime just so the Ravens could get the ball back and extend their streak of consecutive games with at least 100 rushing yards? The takes this week would’ve spiraled out of control, and I would’ve loved every minute of it.

I couldn’t be more impressed with how the Chargers have already established an identity just five games into Brandon Staley’s tenure. They know exactly how they want to play, and the center of it all is Justin Herbert. I like both of these defenses and both of these quarterbacks. It just feels like something special might be happening with this Chargers team. I’m taking the points.

Week 6 NFL game picks: Buccaneers down Eagles; Chargers edge out Ravens - Gregg Rosenthal

Los Angeles Chargers 27, Baltimore Ravens 26

Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert might be the best closers in the NFL. The suddenly clutch Chargers have outscored their opponents 59-28 in the final frame this season. Jackson already has led two double-digit comebacks and three game-winning drives. Both teams have top-10 offenses with below-average defenses in support, even if they accomplish those numbers in different ways. Baltimore’s high-risk defensive approach is boom or bust, while Los Angeles’ defense is almost designed to give up yardage. I can’t believe that the Chargers are more balanced, with the Ravens’ running game having gone from historic to barely there at all of late. In a coin flip game, I trust the Bolts a bit more to get yards in any way they need to.