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Baltimore Ravens vs. Los Angeles Chargers Point Spread - Pick

Baltimore Ravens (8-6 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (11-3 SU, 8-6 ATS)
Week 16 NFL
Date/Time: Saturday Night Football, December 22, 2018 at 8:20PM EST
Where: ROKiT Field at StubHub Center, Carson, California
TV: NFL Network

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Betting Odds: BAL +4.5/LAC -4.5
Over/Under Total: 45

The Baltimore Ravens come to Carson for an AFC matchup with the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night. Last week, on Thursday Night Football, the Chargers came back in incredible fashion, going for the two at the end and beating the Kansas City Chiefs, 29-28. The win draws them even with the Chiefs in the standings, as they are very much in the race to win the AFC West and even secure the number-one seed in the playoffs. The Ravens come into town at 8-6, still squarely in the AFC North division and wild card hunt. On Sunday, they won their fourth game in five tries, beating Tampa at home, 20-12.

The Chargers are really starting to add an air of quality to their record this season. A few weeks before, they went into Pittsburgh, coming back on the Steelers to score a big road-win. Last week, against a good team that had beaten them before, they were able to come back and score two touchdowns in the game's final 3:48, including the gutsy two-point conversion at the end. That shows a lot of character—coming back and beating good teams, going for the gusto, and getting it done without Melvin Gordon (probable). These are the type of galvanizing wins that can really help bring the best out of a team. The Chargers have won ten of their last 11 games and look to be among the class of the conference heading into week 16.

You can't say Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers isn't clutch. Facing a major deficit against the Chiefs on Thursday, he had no doubt, making use of a full toolbox of offensive weapons to lead his team to the big win. He made a few mistakes in the game, but was again over 300 yards. WR Mike Williams was huge, catching two TDs, running in one, and catching the two-point conversion. Along the way, clutch plays were executed flawlessly. Without Gordon and Austin Ekeler (questionable), Justin Jackson ran well, with Detrez Newsome coming from deep in the barrel to provide production. With Keenan Allen (questionable) hurt and leaving the game, Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin stepped up, with old Rivers standby Antonio Gates making some key late receptions. To beat a team they hadn't beaten in a long time in a stadium where they rarely win and to do it the way they did was huge.

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The Chargers' defense was fairly effective in holding Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes to 243 yards on Thursday in the big win. Melvin Ingram was big with 1.5 sacks. Joey Bosa, Damion Square, Darius Philon, and Jatavis Brown helped stuff the run. Safeties Derwin James and Adrian Phillips were all over the field making plays. And for the most part this season, teams like the Chiefs, Steelers, and Rams have been the only teams really able to put up a lot of points against this defense. They're not impervious, but for the first time in years, they are a clutch unit that plays with urgency and is certainly a team asset.

It has been an up-and-down season for the Ravens this year. They opened with three wins in four games, before losing 4 of five, leading up to this latest stretch where they have four wins in five games. The only loss in this latest run was a road-overtime defeat at Arrowhead, so they're doing pretty well. The defense started playing better, with more of a clutch impact on games. And with Lamar Jackson behind center, the offense has a new dimension and they've responded well in recent weeks. Like the Chargers, they have a lot riding on this game. But unlike the Chargers, they have to keep winning to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Jackson is what you'd expect him to be—not that heavy-duty of a passing threat, but making up for it with a lively set of legs. That's pretty dangerous to have a QB who can control games with his legs and arm. The aerial game isn't that strong, led by John Brown and Willie Snead. But it's their run-game that is really on-fire and Sunday's win over Tampa was a case in point. Jackson ran for 95 yards, while Gus Edwards ran for 104 yards and a TD. Since coming into the lineup, Edwards has been one of the more-productive backs in the conference. Over the last five games, Edwards and Jackson have really been tremendous.

If Baltimore comes out of the fog and ends up being a playoff team; their defense is what gives them special component. They have been robust against both the pass and the run. Up-front, Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams offer a lot of resistance on that interior line. Old-reliable Terrell Suggs can still get after quarterbacks, as can LB Za'Darius Smith. Also in the middle, CJ Mosley is a difference-maker, with Matthew Judon a major factor. In the secondary, Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle, Tony Jefferson, and Marlon Humphrey have been tremendous. This defense ranks near the top in most categories and should be able to give the Chargers some more resistance than other opponents have recently.

Each team should see the element of urgency resonate in this game. And to both team's credit; they have shown the ability to react to that this season. The Chargers are at home, where they've been very effective, and they are on a big roll. The gap between being a wild card team and a top-two seed is pretty vast, meaning they have a lot to play for, even as the Ravens are still fighting for their playoff lives. The difference between a win and a loss here is very drastic and they should come into town with a lot of pep in their step. I see the Chargers' defense with all their playmakers giving Lamar Jackson and Company some issues. But the Baltimore defense is for real and I see them showing up well enough to help Baltimore get the cover on the road this week.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Baltimore Ravens plus 4.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Ravens vs. Chargers game from home at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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