As of this post, the Jets are down 28-13 to the Eagles. If that score holds, or if the Raiders lose to the Lions (Oakland is up 17-14 right now), the Ravens will have clinched a playoff birth before they even take the field tonight.
If both the Raiders and Jets pick up wins today, John Harbaugh’s gang will have to get the job done themselves in order to secure a postseason spot today.
With the Texans losing earlier today and the Patriots in a dogfight in Denver (have you heard Tom Brady is facing off against Tim Tebow?) the Ravens have a chance to take a leg up in the fight for the No. 1 seed in the AFC with a win tonight.
Here are three keys to tonight’s game:
1. Disrupt Rivers’ timing
If the Ravens allow Philip Rivers to sit back and work through his progressions with a clean pocket, the Chargers’ quarterback could do some damage. We’ve talked about the size and athleticism of San Diego’s wide receivers and tight end, and they’re a team that loves to take shots down the field and look to pick up yardage in chunks. But Rivers has also thrown the second-most interceptions of any quarterback in the league and the Ravens have noticed that he can tend to get rattled if he’s getting hit a lot. That will certainly be their goal tonight.
2. Exploit Chargers’ third-down issues
The Ravens’ defense has allowed the best third-down conversion percentage in the NFL; they’re holding opposing teams to just 28.7 percent in that category. San Diego, meanwhile, has allowed opponents to convert a whopping 45.9 percent of their third-down opportunities, which is the second-worst total in the league. If the Ravens can have success on third downs and string long drives together, that’s more time that Rivers and the Chargers’ offense has to sit on the sidelines.
3. Watch out for Weddle
San Diego doesn’t have a star-studded defense, but a couple of underrated guys have had nice seasons for the Chargers. Up front, former Ravens linebacker Antwan Barnes leads the team with seven sacks. On the back-end, safety Eric Weddle is tied for the league lead with seven interceptions. Weddle isn’t usually a big-time playmaker (he only had six interceptions over the first four years of his career coming into this season), but he has been on fire lately and will need to be accounted for tonight.