It is about that time of year when everyone starts referring to Jim Mora’s famous playoff rant as teams desperately try to keep their playoff hopes alive. With three weeks remaining in the regular season many teams are still mathematically alive in the playoff race, so Week 15 should be filled with drama and fantastic finishes.
There are only a couple of games that have no real meaning in the playoff race with Miami facing Buffalo and Green Bay facing the Chiefs. The Dolphins, Bills and Chiefs are all out of the playoffs and the Packers will most likely have the No. 1 seed overall in the NFC playoff picture—unless something drastic happens and Green Bay loses all of its remaining games, which is highly unlikely.
All of the remaining games have playoff possibilities with teams that are still in the hunt and competing for wild-card spots, or teams that will most likely be in the playoffs but are fighting for position to see where they will be seeded.
There are some great games scheduled for Week 15, but one game stands out to me and that is the Sunday night game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Diego Chargers. Both teams have a lot at stake in this matchup because neither team can afford a loss this late in the season.
The Ravens cannot afford to lose because they are currently tied for the AFC North division lead with the Pittsburgh Steelers at 10-3. Baltimore currently holds the tiebreaker between the two since they swept Pittsburgh in their season series.
A loss to the Chargers could mean losing the division to the Steelers and having to play in the first round of the playoffs instead of receiving a first-round bye. A loss could also result in the Ravens losing a home playoff game, and as we all know home-field advantage means something in the playoffs.
As for the San Diego Chargers, the formula for them to make the playoffs is very simple: win out and hope that the teams in front of them lose some of their remaining games. A loss in this game for the Chargers ultimately ends any hopes of making the playoffs. San Diego needs a lot to happen in the next three weeks for them to make the playoffs, but they must first win their matchup against the Ravens or else their season will be over.
The Baltimore Ravens are coming into Week 15 with four straight victories, and as long as they win their remaining three games against the Chargers, Browns and Bengals, the Ravens will earn the No. 1 seed in the AFC and will have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Baltimore has had a very successful season thus far as they swept the Steelers for the first time in a season since 2006 and they just recently ended their eight-game losing streak to their rivals from Indianapolis with a win last week.
Who will win this matchup?
However, not everything has come easy for the Ravens this season as they suffered huge letdowns toward the middle of the season against the Seahawks and the Jaguars on Monday Night Football. The Ravens were also down by 18 points at the half to Arizona, but Baltimore rallied in the second half to beat the Cardinals by a score of 30-27.
The Ravens have been suspect at times, but with the help of their strong defense Baltimore has proved that they are a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.
It is no surprise that Baltimore’s defense once again ranks in the top five in the league but is has been a shock to see the Ravens offense rank in the top 15 in passing yards, rushing yards and total yards per game, as well as being in the top ten when it comes to points per game. Baltimore has proved to be a multi-faceted team that does not rely solely on their defense to win games anymore.
On the other hand, the San Diego Chargers have not had the season that they were hoping for as they are currently 6-7 and sit in third place in the AFC West. The Chargers are two games behind the “Fighting Tebows” as the Denver Broncos sit atop the division lead with a mark of 8-5.
Over the past few years the Chargers have always started the season off slowly, but it was just the opposite this season as the Chargers started off with a 4-1 record. However, that untraditional start quickly came to halt as San Diego lost their next six games. That six-game losing streak almost ended the Chargers' playoff hopes, but thanks to their back-to-back victories over the Jaguars and the Bills, the Chargers are still in the hunt for the playoffs.
Despite San Diego’s sub-.500 record, the Chargers still have a high powered offense that ranks in the top 10, but their defense has struggled at times, which has hurt them in big games. Philip Rivers also has not had a spectacular year by anyone’s standards, considering that he has thrown more interceptions this year than in any previous year. Still, Rivers has a completion percentage of 62.9 and he has thrown for 3,745 yards with 22 touchdowns. Rivers is still an elite quarterback in the NFL, but he knows that he has struggled at times this season.
However, it seems like the Chargers always seem to make a late playoff run toward the end of the season, and that run begins in the month of December as Rivers has only lost two games in his entire career as a starter in the 12th month. Rivers is trying to find some more magic this season as his Chargers need to win their last three games to even stay alive in the playoff race.
Both the Ravens and the Chargers have a lot on the line in Sunday night’s game, and I believe that the score will be higher than most people expect. I know that Baltimore has a strong defense, but the Chargers have one of the most powerful offenses in the league and they can air it out when they need to.
Both teams have dealt with injuries over the season but the Chargers have had key offensive line injuries that have consequently hurt Rivers in the passing game. Rivers has been pressured a great deal this season and with key offensive targets in Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd missing time this season has not helped his cause.
Joe Flacco also had to deal with a key wide receiver injury as Lee Evans has been injured most of the season. Evans was supposed to be a key acquisition for the Ravens over the off season and help open up the passing game. Luckily for Baltimore and Flacco, a rookie wide out by the name of Torrey Smith has picked up the slack and helped Flacco to have a career best season in the passing game.
I believe that this game will come down to offense. I give the edge to San Diego when it comes to offense, and the edge goes to Baltimore on the defensive side of the ball. When it all comes down to it, I would rather have Rivers leading my team at the end of the game to win it in the final minutes of regulation. Plus, Rivers only has two career losses as a starter in the month of December, so I give the edge to the Chargers in this matchup.