Oh boy. After all the hype of the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh matchup back on Thanksgiving, we've got another sibling coaching battle on our hands this week.
When the Ravens head out west to take on the Chargers this Sunday night, it will serve as a family reunion of sorts for Baltimore's defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, whose younger brother, John, is the Chargers' linebackers coach.
I'm assuming there won't be quite as much hype surrounding the Pagano Bowl as there was for the Battle of the Harbaughs a few weeks ago. Just a guess.
In addition to the Pagano connection, there are quite a few personnel ties between the Ravens and Chargers.
Offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who spent four seasons and started 28 games with the Ravens, is now San Diego's starting left tackle. Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes, who had five sacks in three seasons as a member of the Baltimore defense, has really developed in San Diego and leads the team with seven sacks this year. Tony Moll ... well, Tony Moll is still a reserve tackle who sees little action.
Can anyone remember watching a team that is as dramatically hot/cold as the Chargers? They start the season 4-1 and look like they'll roll to an AFC West title only to lose six straight games, causing rumblings that coach Norv Turner is set to be fired. The Chargers then respond by going out and winning their last two by a combined score of 75-24.
Now, with three games to play, they're suddenly back in the playoff hunt, sitting two games behind the division-leading Broncos.
When the season began, I thought this would be one of the toughest games on the Ravens' schedule.
They'll have to fly cross country for a primetime game against a team with an incredibly dangerous offense and quite possibly the most physical, dynamic receiving corps in the league. The Chargers rank in the top-10 in both total offense and total defense, own the NFL's top offense on third-and-short conversions (82.7 percent) and have a quarterback in Philip Rivers who has struggled mightily at times, but can put a team on his back at any point.
The Chargers are exactly the type of team that has given the Ravens problems over the years. They have a physical quarterback who stays on his feet and can air it out down the field, tall receivers who can run and make big plays and a perennial Pro Bowl tight end in Antonio Gates who is a monster over the middle. When they're on point, the Chargers are a nightmare for a defense, especially one that could be without its top cornerback (Lardarius Webb) and All-Pro linebacker (Ray Lewis) because of injuries.
This one would have been a tough matchup for the Ravens if San Diego was still stinking it up on a weekly basis, much less now that they're clicking again.
Yeah, the Chargers have had their issues. They've been hit hard by injuries, Rivers has thrown the second-most interceptions of any quarterback in the league and their defense can't get off the field on third down. But over the last couple weeks, the Chargers appear to be back in a bit of a groove, and with the playoffs in sight, they'll be going all-out on Sunday night.
Smells like danger to me.