Sunday night, the 10-3 Baltimore Ravens will head west to San Diego to face the 6-7 Chargers, who have won their last two games.
Here are 10 Things to watch with San Diego:
1) After losing 6 consecutive games, the Chargers have put up 75 points the past two weeks against Jacksonville and Buffalo. For the year, SD has scored 324 points while allowing 299.
2) SD is ranked 8th in Total Defense (7th against the Pass, and 23rd against the Run). The Chargers are tied for 28th in the league with just 22 sacks. Their Offense is also ranked 8th overall (7th in Passing, and 16th in Rushing).
3) It is hard to believe that Philip Rivers is finishing his 8th year in the NFL, as it does not seem that long ago that Terps fans were calling him PhiLLLip. Rivers has enough of a body of work to identify him as one of the elite QB’s in the league. He will end this year with his 4th consecutive season with over 4,000 passing yards. The NCST product is actually averaging the second highest yards per game (288.1) of his career. That said, his numbers are a bit down this year. After three consecutive seasons with a QB rating over 100, his QB rating is 87.5. During those past three years, his completion % was over 65%. This year it is 62.9%. Entering yesterday, his ESPN QBR was 55.9% which was good for 16th among QB’s (just ahead of Flacco).
4) Baltimore will get to see old friend Jared Gaither lined-up at LT for the Chargers. Signed after being cut by Kansas City, Gaither has started the last two weeks (Pro Bowler Marcus McNeill is on Injured Reserve) for SD and played well. LG is missing another All-Pro in Kris Dielman, who is also on IR. At Center is Nick Hardwick, who was a Pro Bowl selection in 2006. Louis Vasquez is a massive 6’5 325 lbs, and is considered one of the better RG’s in the league. The RT is Jeromey Clary who signed a 4 year $20M contract prior to this year. San Diego has allowed 30 sacks (tied for 15th in the league). Over the last two weeks, Rivers has been sacked just twice.
5) 2nd year RB Ryan Matthews (the Chargers 2010 1st round selection) is really coming into his own. Matthews has rushed for 943 yards (5.1 yards per carry), and has 45 receptions for 420 receiving yards. He has found the end-zone four times this year, and has also gone over 110 yards rushing in each of the last three games. What I’ve read has indicated he has really improved in blitz pick-up this year as well.
5a) Matthews’ back-up is Mike Tolbert. Tolbert (5’9, 243 lbs) is a bowling ball of a RB. He has ran for 385 yards, and he also has 45 receptions for 370 yards. He has 6 rushing TD’s, and 2 receiving TD’s. Jacob Hester lines up at FB.
6) The Chargers have a lot of size and skill with Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd at WR, and Antonio Gates at TE. Jackson 6’5 230 lbs has 53 receptions, 952 yards, with 8 TD’s. Jackson is averaging 18 yards per grab (17.4 for his career), and 3.3 yards after the catch. The 6’5, 225 lb Floyd was a target of the Ravens last Summer. Floyd has played in 9 games, and has had just 25 grabs. He is stretching the field when he touches the ball though, averaging 21.5 yards per reception, and 5.2 yards after the catch. On Sunday, Gates became the 2nd TE ever with over 75 career TD’s. Gates played in the season opener, missed four weeks, and has been a factor since he has returned. In the past three games he has had 19 receptions. For the year Gates has 53 receptions for 601 yards, and 6 TD’s.
6a) Good skill-position depth for the Chargers with WR’s Vincent Brown, Patrick Crayton, and TE Randy McMichael.
7) The Defensive Line is still dealing with the loss of Luis Castillo, and does not get much push. At LDE is Corey Liuget, who was SD’s 2011 1st rounder out of Illinois. Liuget has yet to record a sack. Former star Tommie Harris rotates in.
8) Even with Larry English on IR, the Chargers have a nice group of LB’s. At LOLB is Shaun Phillips. After 11 sacks and Pro Bowl appearance last year, Phllips has had just 3 sacks in ’11. The ILB’s are Takeo Spikes (who we remember from his time with Cincinnati), and Donald Butler. Butler’s 2010 rookie season was wiped out due to injury, but he has played well this year. Butler has had 80 tackles, 1 pick, 1 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. Former Raven Antwan Barnes comes off the bench as a pass rusher, and has had 7 sacks.
9) Not surprisingly, Bob Sanders was not able to stay healthy and was forced to IR. The starting Safeties are Steve Gregory (SS) and Eric Weddle (FS). Weddle was a 2010 All-Pro, and has 7 picks this year.
10) The starting CB’s are Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason. Both Jammer (2002) and Cason (2008) are former 1st rounders. In 2009 Cason picked off Flacco. 2011 2nd rounder Marcus Gilchrist (Clemson) gets time as the Nickle back.