Scouting Report

Ravens vs. Chargers

October 01, 2006|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

Ravens run offense vs. Chargers run defense

Jamal Lewis has yet to rush for 90 yards in a game this season despite playing against weak run defenses the past two weeks (Oakland and Cleveland). The biggest concern is Lewis' inability to break tackles. Unlike previous seasons, he is being brought down by smaller cornerbacks and safeties after getting through the line. Stopping the run remains the backbone of a physical San Diego defense. The anchor is 348-pound nose tackle Jamal Williams, who uses strength and quickness to control the inside. Inside linebackers Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey are two of the Chargers' top three tacklers.

Edge: Chargers

Ravens pass offense vs. Chargers pass defense

The Chargers have the NFL's top-ranked pass defense, but they will be without strong safety Terrence Kiel, who was arrested on Tuesday on felony drug charges and won't play today. Kiel will be replaced by Clinton Hart, a career backup who has started 14 games since his 2003 rookie year. If San Diego continues to be aggressive in its pass rush, the Ravens have to make the defense pay with big plays. Quarterback Steve McNair has struggled with his efficiency, completing 53 percent of his passes (39-for-74) the past two games. The game's best matchup is left tackle Jonathan Ogden against Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman (three sacks).

Edge: Even

Chargers run offense vs. Ravens run defense

This is where the game will be won or lost. The Chargers have run the ball 64 percent of the time (85 runs out of 132 plays). LaDainian Tomlinson, the heart of the offense, has 202 yards rushing and three touchdowns in two games. If the Ravens can slow Tomlinson, they will force inexperienced starter Philip Rivers to beat them. With Ray Lewis in the starting lineup, the Ravens haven't allowed 100 yards to a running back in nine home games. It'll be interesting to see how elusive Tomlinson can be against athletic linebackers like Lewis, Bart Scott and Adalius Thomas. Fullback Lorenzo Neal will be targeting Lewis.

Edge: Even

Chargers pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

Rivers, a first-year starting quarterback, has completed 71.7 percent of his throws, which is second best in the NFL. One reason for the accuracy: He hasn't been sacked in 46 pass attempts. But Rivers has yet to face a high-pressure defense like the Ravens', which is tied for most sacks in the NFL with 16. The Ravens have a history of rattling young quarterbacks. The one concern for the Ravens is defensive end Terrell Suggs (hamstring), who is a game-time decision. Tight end Antonio Gates could have a difficult time getting open against Thomas, who can match Gates' athleticism. Receiver Keenan McCardell (hamstring) is questionable.

Edge: Ravens

Special teams

With both defenses allowing just one touchdown in the red zone this season, the kicking game could be pivotal. The Ravens' Matt Stover has connected on a career-best 29 straight field goals, including a game-winning 52-yarder last week. The Chargers' Nate Kaeding is also perfect this season, making all six of his field-goal attempts. Field position could also play a factor. The Ravens' B.J. Sams leads the NFL with a 36.2-yard average on kickoff returns.

Edge: Even

Intangibles

The Ravens are 13-3 at M&T Bank Stadium since October 2004, winning their past five home games by an average of 15.6 points. But San Diego has been one of the best teams on the road, winning 11 of its past 14 games away from home. The cross-country flight shouldn't be a factor for the Chargers, who had a bye last week. The Chargers are 3-0 in games after their bye since 2003.

Edge: Even

Prediction

Recent history says this: The Ravens don't allow 100-yard rushers at home, they don't play passively against inexperienced quarterbacks and they don't miss game-winning field goals with Matt Stover.

Ravens, 23-20

Ravens vs. Chargers Today, 1 p.m.-- M&T Bank Stadium--Chs. 13, 9 -- Line: Chargers by 2

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