STAR PREVIEW Sun: LA Chargers v Baltimore Ravens

ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.

Both teams enter Week 6 with 4-1 records to their names but those win-loss statistics have been gained in markedly different ways. The Chargers enter on a three-game winning streak having beaten Kansas City, Las Vegas and Cleveland in free-scoring games while the Ravens having been playing with fire in gaining their wins.

A fumble in Week 2 against the Chiefs handing them a winning chance, a record-breaking 66-yard field goal to seal a crazy win over the Lions in Week 3 and managing to overturn a 19-point deficit with 16 minutes in the game remaining last week when coming up against the Colts. All of those game could have been lost and Baltimore could have been looking at 1-4 instead if 4-1.

In close one score games currently the Ravens are 3-1 but enter this home game with the Chargers off the back of a short week and that emotion draining win over the Colts. The Chargers are starting to fire on offence after what was a slow start to the season and over the past three weeks they have recorded 105 points with their trips into the red zone cashing with a touchdown at a rate of 8%.

Much of the credit for that style of play must go to offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi who is getting the best out of one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the NFL – Justin Herbert. Herbert has thrown 11 touchdown passes in the past three weeks and has the ability to set up scoring plays very quickly. Herbert has also shown plenty of poise under pressure and is not thrown off his game by being blitzed although his offensive line is starting to show signs of wear and tear and there are a couple of notable absentees that will test the depth of that group.

Herbert who could be without one of his main wide receivers in Mike Williams (questionable status) still has enough pieces on offence to move the ball quickly. They ran a play every 21.5 seconds during their 27 neutral-situation snaps (refers to plays while the game is within seven points during the first three quarters (minus the final two minutes of the first half) versus the Browns. Even if they are without notable big-play man Williams, Herbert will still have running back Austin Ekeler to rely on.

Ekeler is tied for the NFL touchdown lead with seven and banked 22 touches of the ball last week rushing for 66 yards and two touchdowns while adding five catches on five targets for 53 yards through the air and another score. It’s notable therefore that the Ravens defence have permitted a league-high 342 receiving yards to opposing running backs and also rank tied for worst in missed tackles (45) and have given up 858 yards after the catch (third-most).

The vastly-underrated Keenan Allen also provides Herbert with another outlet, Allen has been targeted eight or more times in all five games this year although he does only have one touchdown to show for his labours. One element of the Chargers offence that may be worth watching is the expansion week-by-week of the role of tight-end Donald Parham. He logged a 53% snap rate versus Cleveland last week and has scored a TD in each of the last two games, he might just be a little overpriced in the anytime TD markets at 4-1 especially if Williams does miss the game.

Baltimore used to be known for their pounding running game but numerous injuries to their offensive line and running backs appears to have put paid to that offensive style this year with their main rushing threat coming via their elusive quarterback Lamar Jackson. Cleveland last week ran all over the Chargers defence but the Browns have one of the best running games in the NFL and the Ravens run game has produced a total of only 188 yards the past two games, with almost half of those gains from Jackson.

Crucially the Ravens offence can’t afford another slow start; they are averaging less than a field goal in the opening quarter on the year and have yet to put up points on their opening drive of a game. Against the Colts, Baltimore were forced to punt on their first four possessions.

Jackson, who is playing at an elite-level faces a tough challenge this week against a Chargers defence which is limiting explosive pass plays and he will have to show some patience in the passing game which the Ravens have shown an increased reliance on this year due to their run-game and defensive struggles. That’s been good news for Marquise “Hollywood” Brown their main wide receiver who ranks 8th in the NFL in receiving yards (451), No. 2 in 20-plus-yard catches (9), and No. 2 in receiving TDs (5).

Brown gets a tough test here but he should prove up to the task as should leading tight-end Mark Andrews, a position that the Chargers have proved vulnerable to. Andrews ranks third at his position in targets, second in catches (29), and first in yards (400).
If the Chargers do take advantage of another possible Ravens slow start then Baltimore will be forced to use their passing game more and more, upping the usage of Brown and Andrews considerably.

An entertaining game should ensue here and it may well be worth noting that the over has hit in each of the past six games in which the Ravens had less than full rest, something that will be the case this week after Baltimore hosted Indianapolis on Monday night.

The Chargers also have the ability to draw sides into up-tempo games and their propensity to go for it on fourth downs (they convert at the third highest rate) increases play volume and scoring upside. Chargers games average the second-most combined plays (130.6) and sixth-most total points (51.6).

BACK Mark Andrews +60.5 receiving yards 2pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Donald Parham to score a TD 1pt at 4/1 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Over +5.5 match touchdowns 4pts at 5/6 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)

PROFIT/LOSS (OCTOBER 2021): PROFT 9.36 points
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