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Ravens X-Factor: Marquise Brown offers the path to outscoring the Chargers

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Las Vegas Raiders Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The most compelling contest on the Week 6 slate features two AFC heavyweights. Both the first-place Ravens and Chargers are averaging more than 27 points scored per game and the oddsmakers’ 51.5 point total indicates an expected high scoring affair.

Head Coach Brandon Staley’s defense is designed to invite the run and limit chunk plays. His tactics were effective for a Rams defense led by Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey that finished with the league’s best defense last season. Chargers Pro Bowl pass rusher Joey Bosa is a notch below the dominant Donald but Derwin James may be the second best matchup coverage defender in the NFL, behind only fellow FSU product Ramsey. James’ rare skillset is perfectly suited to neutralized Lamar Jackson’s go-to target Mark Andrews.

Justin Herbert’s ability to put points on the scoreboard using his bevy of playmakers and Derwin’s unique potential to clamp down Andrews will likely put the burden to produce squarely on Marquise Brown.

Hollywood has delivered at an elite level this season. His 451 receiving yards rank eighth and his five touchdowns are tied for second most in the league. Brown’s nine receptions of 20-plus yards are also tied for second most, yet he will face a Chargers secondary that has allowed the fifth fewest 20-plus yard completions.

Los Angeles cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr., Michael Davis, Asante Samuel Jr. and Tevaughn Campbell have allowed the third least combined statistical output to opposing wide receivers in 2021. They limited Terry McLaurin to 62 yards in Week 1, CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper to 81 and 24 yards in Week 2, Tyreek Hill to 56 yards in Week 3, Henry Ruggs to 60 yards in Week 4 and Odell Beckham Jr. to 20 yards last Sunday. None of these top flight receivers have found the end zone against the Chargers this season.

Supplying a huge performance will be challenging for Hollywood this week. In this battle, his slick route running and take-the-top-off speed are critical elements of the Ravens gameplan. If Brown rises to the occasion, the Ravens have a strong chance to emerge with the victory, bolstering their claim as a premier AFC team. And Brown will have another data point supporting his position as a cornerstone player for Baltimore’s franchise.