NFL Wild Card Weekend includes a Sunday afternoon matchup between the Chargers and Ravens. For this game and every postseason contest, we’ll break down the sports betting lines and recommend where to place your bets at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Keep an eye on injury news right up until kick off since things can change quickly in the NFL. Any player listed as questionable may see limited action or not suit up at all if he doesn’t respond well in warm-ups.
NFL Wild Card Football Betting Odds
Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
NFL Wild Card Football Breakdown
When these teams met two weeks ago on a Saturday night, the Ravens were highly motivated underdogs. Playing on a short week after an emotional comeback win over Kansas City the previous Sunday night, the Chargers dropped a dud with just 198 total yards in a 22-10 loss.
Now, the Chargers (+3) are the underdogs. They’ve been given the dreaded 1 p.m. time slot on the East Coast, which, of course, feels like 10 a.m. for West Coast teams, causing many to doubt a team that’s disappointed in the past.
This year, the Chargers are 7-1 on the road with nearly identical passing splits. Their running game has been more effective, averaging 5.1 YPC away from the modest Dignity Health Sports Park, and they’re holding opposing QBs to an 82.9 passer rating with 23 sacks in those eight games.
The Ravens come into this Wild Card matchup with plenty of momentum. Lamar Jackson has sparked a 6-1 run to earn an AFC North crown and home-field advantage against this 12-4 Chargers team.
Baltimore’s averaging 229.6 rushing YPG over Jackson’s seven starts and has been stellar defensively, allowing the fewest YPG (293) and second-fewest PPG (17.9) on the season. Despite the fact LG Alex Lewis (shoulder) has missed four straight, Baltimore ranks first in the NFL in power run blocking and eighth in adjusted sack rate (6.1%) this season. And the Chargers defensive line has been vulnerable to power run games, ranking 23rd against power run blocking.
Jackson, Gus Edwards, and Kenneth Dixon combined for 159 rushing yards on 35 carries (4.54 YPC) to keep Baltimore’s offense moving in a Week 16 date with the Chargers. They should remain the focal point of the Ravens’ offense in this matchup.
Dixon handled 13 touches while Edwards handled 12 in Week 17. As the superior receiving option, Dixon could see more than half of the work once again against a Chargers team that’s allowed the fourth-most receptions (107) to opposing backs this year.
When the Chargers began to sell out to stop the Ravens rushing attack in the second half of Week 16, Jackson hit TE Mark Andrews in stride for a 68-yard TD, the longest scoring play of his young career.
That touch throw bolstered an otherwise weak line from Jackson. He completed 11-of-21 passes for 134 yards and took three sacks. On the year, Jackson is completing 58.4 percent of his passes with an 84.5 passer rating. And he’s been quite turnover prone with 12 fumbles (five lost) and three interceptions.
The usually disciplined Chargers defense ranks 10th in DVOA against both the run and pass, and then first against TEs. They are vulnerable down the field, ranking 31st in deep passes but are third against short passes. Ultimately, LA should have a scheme in place to contain the limited Jackson.
John Brown is the Ravens’ best downfield weapon and can be considered as a GPP option in DFS contests on DraftKings and FanDuel. Then, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead are solid possession receivers. In particular, Snead has seen an uptick in usage with Jackson under center.
While the Chargers’ defense has dealt with season-ending injuries to DT Corey Liuget (knee), as well as LBs Denzel Perryman (knee), Kyzir White (knee), and Jatavis Brown (ankle), this unit has consistently generated pressure.
Joey Bosa has recorded 5.5 sacks over just six starts. And rookie safety Derwin James is one of only two NFL players with 100 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and three interceptions this season. The Chargers allow the third-fewest points (4.32) per red zone trip and yielded essentially nothing to the Ravens on their own half of the field in Week 16. They forced three Justin Tucker field goals.
On offense, Philip Rivers has keyed a very balanced Chargers attack that ranks second in DVOA pass offense and third overall this season.
Despite general success, Rivers and his team struggled down the stretch. They committed seven turnovers over their final two games after doing so just 12 times over their first 14. Overall, the Bolts are fifth in points per drive (2.43) while playing at the slowest pace in the NFL.
The Ravens are holding opposing QBs to a 73.5 passer rating and 54.8 percent completion rate at home this season. Rivers was awful in his last start against the Ravens but completed 75 percent of his passes with 6 TDs in his previous two trips to Baltimore (in 2014 and 2015). Rivers has a history of fading down the stretch and in the playoffs, and opponents facing the Ravens have averaged 10.9 fewer plays per game this year.
The Chargers have depended on a strong running game throughout most of the year with both Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler averaging over 5.0 YPC this season. However, Baltimore allows just 3.7 YPC on the season.
Ekeler was inactive and Gordon limited in his first action back from an MCL sprain when these teams met in Week 16. Now, Gordon’s knee is reportedly healthy, but he’s dealing with an ankle issue heading into this playoff contest. An MVP candidate during the first half of the year, Gordon should provide a huge boost in a potentially low-scoring slugfest now that he’s closer to full health.
Keenan Allen was also hobbled by a hip pointer when these teams last met. His health will, likewise, be critical against a Ravens team that is more vulnerable over the middle.
Baltimore’s lone weakness in terms of DVOA is against TEs. In turn, the Chargers expect promising TE Hunter Henry to debut after missing the entire regular season with a torn ACL. Henry and veteran Antonio Gates should both be factors in the red zone.
While the Ravens allow the second-fewest yards per drive, they allow the ninth-most TDs per red zone trip. Rivers has been great in that area all year with big-bodied WRs in Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams to target. Mike Williams is by far the superior option in the red zone.
NFL Wild Card Picks
Along with the Bears, these teams have the only two defenses that rank top 10 against both the run and pass. The Ravens rank fourth in drive success rate (DSR) allowed. The Chargers are 14th this season.
Points will likely be hard to come by in this matchup, and the Chargers slow pace could lead to a rapidly rolling clock. Baltimore is actually fourth in pace of play and first in pace when trailing by 7-plus points.
We’re still taking the Under (42 on FanDuel Sportsbook) based on the strength of both defenses and Baltimore’s likely struggles in the red zone. The Ravens ability to string together long, clock-bleeding drives also factors in.
The Chargers have not allowed a rushing TD to an opposing QB and have yielded a below-average 11 rushing TDs to RBs. For their part, the Ravens have allowed only eight rushing TDs to RBs.
Our stronger bet is on the spread. The Chargers (+3) look likely to cover and potentially win outright. Taking the Chargers (+115 on BetStars) on the moneyline is worth consideration and the Chargers are an even stronger bet on 888 Sports, where they have a 3.5-point hook.
Here’s one more factoid: rookie QBs have lost six straight playoff games. The last rookie to win a playoff game (Russell Wilson in 2013) was facing another rookie QB (Robert Griffin III). Lamar Jackson has limited experience in pressure situations and is simply not a polished enough passer to keep a very good defense honest.
With his two best weapons (Gordon and Allen) closer to full health, Rivers should bounce back and silence the doubters by leading his Chargers to victory despite the hurdles of playing on the East Coast in an unfortunate time slot.
Bettors generally agree with that logic, as approximately 75% of public money is on the Chargers.