NFL Expert Picks Against the Spread: Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
So, by Sunday afternoon we could be one step closer to a potential all-Los Angeles Super Bowl matchup and to the Baltimore Ravens trading Coach John Harbaugh.
OK, I don't actually think the Chargers will win in Baltimore in the first game Sunday - the Bolts got hosed being put in the only 1 p.m. ET window of wild-card weekend - but it's certainly not out of the question. Both they and the Rams (off this weekend) are good enough to reach the Super Bowl. For an exact matchup, Bovada gives L.A. vs. L.A. a price of +2100.
Ravens ownership has said it wants Harbaugh back but still hasn't extended his contract past 2019. Very, very rare a coach - at least one a team likes - goes into the final year of his contract. No club wants a lame-duck coach. If Baltimore wins this game, Harbaugh probably does stay. However, should it lose then I could see the team deciding to move on and seeing what it could get in trade.
About a quarter of the league has head coaching openings, and you can bet most of those teams would love a shot at Harbaugh. The Denver Broncos reportedly are at the top of that list. NFL coaching trades aren't common but they do happen. Jon Gruden (Raiders to Bucs in 2002) and Bill Belichick (Jets to Patriots in 2000) being two trades that worked out quite well for the team that got them.
Chargers at Ravens Betting Story Lines
Not sure what the best record in NFL history for a wild-card team has been, but I can't imagine it has been any better than the 12-4 the Chargers were this season. If the team is kicking itself for one loss that cost it the AFC's top seed, it has to be the 23-22 last-second home defeat to the sorry Broncos in Week 11.
Then again, if the Bolts had won at home in Week 16 vs. these Ravens, they'd also be the AFC's top seed and West Division champs. However, that game was never much in doubt as the Ravens outgained the Chargers 361-198 and forced three turnovers. Philip Rivers had a really good season, one of his best, but he has been tailing off of late with two picks in each of the past three games.
Not sure that either Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon (knee) or Pro Bowl receiver Keenan Allen (hip) are fully healthy after each missing late-season games. Rivers will apparently get a nice surprise weapon this week in tight end Hunter Henry. He looked very promising his first two seasons with 12 combined TD catches but tore his ACL earlier this year and was expected done. Yet, Henry is expected to play Sunday. Even if limited, he could be a nice red-zone weapon.
No rookie QB has ever won the Super Bowl, and the only one with a chance this year would be Baltimore's Lamar Jackson - the last of five first-round QBs taken in the 2018 draft. Jackson is easily the worst passer of this class (he topped 60 percent completions in just two of his seven starts), but he's a different breed of mobile quarterback. The Ravens are 6-1 under him and have morphed into a late 1990s run-first team. The former Heisman winner will be the youngest rookie quarterback to ever start a postseason game as Sunday is one day before his 22nd birthday. The Chargers were ninth against the run this season but allowed 159 yards on the ground in that Week 16 defeat.
The winner of this one goes to Kansas City for the Divisional Round (Chargers already have won there and Ravens nearly did) unless Indianapolis upsets Houston on Saturday. If so, the winner goes to the New England.
Chargers at Ravens Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Baltimore is a 2.5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 41.5. On the moneyline, the Ravens are -135 and Chargers +115. Some alternate lines: Ravens -3 (+115), -3.5 (+140), -6.5 (+180), -7.5 (+245), Chargers -2.5 (+138), -3.5 (+178). Los Angeles is 9-7 against the spread (7-1 on road) and 8-8 "over/under" (5-3 on road). Baltimore is 8-8 ATS (3-5 at home) and 7-9 O/U (4-4 at home).
The Chargers are 6-2 ATS in their past eight playoff games. They are 3-8 ATS in their previous 11 after a win. The Ravens have covered seven straight playoff games. They are 2-6 ATS in their past eight at home vs. teams with a winning road record. The under is 7-3 in the Chargers' past 10. It's 5-0 in the Ravens' past five home playoff games. The road team has covered four in a row in the series.
Chargers at Ravens Betting Prediction
The Chargers have the better overall roster. I would pick them to win either at home (despite the worst home-field advantage in the NFL) or at a neutral site that wasn't outdoors in cold weather. But in chilly Baltimore (actually will be warmer than usual this time of year but still not L.A. weather)? The Ravens almost never lose at home to West Coast teams. Not liking how Rivers is playing. Give the 2.5 points and go under.
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