The Ravens made have made the playoffs for the first time in three seasons thanks to theit mid-season switch at QB, where Lamar Jackson, a 21-year-old rookie who they don’t trust to pass the ball, stepped in for Joe Flacco and allowed them to completely change their offence.
Over the final seven games of the season they went 6-1 under Jackson, only losing to the Chiefs and beating their playoff opponents in that run.
They also smashed records for quarterback rushes and set running yard totals that haven’t been seen since the seventies, when the league wasn’t so pass happy.
Whether their system will work again when they play LA is the question.
The Chargers have been screwed by the playoff format as they’ve the joint-best record in the AFC, but because they share a division with KC, they only get the fifth seed spot and will not get a home game on their way to any Super Bowl.
Not that it matters all that much. For one thing, they’ve little to no support in Los Angeles, having moved from San Diego a couple of years ago to a temporary home ground until a new one is built. For another, they went 7-1 on the road this season, both in win-loss and against the spread, so travelling doesn’t seem an issue for them.
They’d prefer to have running back Melvin Gordon fully healthy going into this, but it looks like he will play at least. Their receivers are among the best groups in the league, and QB Philip Rivers will get them the ball.
Given their road form, Baltimore’s shaky play against Cleveland, and the fact they just look an all-round better team, it’s a surprise to see LA +3 here, but we’ll take it and run.
It’s January, it must be Nick Foles!
The hero of last year’s Super Bowl is back in the line-up again and looking like he could lead another unlikely championship drive for the Eagles.
Brought in due to Carson Wentz’s back injury, he rescued their season with a huge win over the Rams in week 15, before taking down Houston and Washington as Philly squeaked past the Vikings and into the sixth seed in the NFC.
He took some punishment in that game, and there are questions about his condition heaidng into this, but their offensive line is looking healthy and nasty, just like they were last season when they won it all last year.
Which is a good news, because they’ll need to be against this brutalising Bears defence.
They’ve been the best unit in the league this season, thanks in part to the generosity/stupidity of Jon Gruden in allowing Khalil Mack leave the Raiders, and its taken them to their first division win in almost a decade.
Offensively, Tarik Cohen is their star at running back, with Jordan Howard backing him up. Mitchell Trubisky is functional at quarterback and doubts remain about him when he’s put under pressure.
It’ll be the job of the defence to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The Bears are on a great streak. They’ve won seven of eight at home, and gone 9-1 against the spread in their last ten, but the Eagles are probably as healthy as they ‘ve been all season on defence, and along the offensive line as well, so should give Foles some protection from the bone-crushing Chicago pass rush.
If Foles gets beaten up, the home team will fancy their chances of covering the -6.5 point handicap, but if the Eagles give him some protection, they can keep this close and, with Trubisky at QB and kicker Cody Parkey a very nervy fellow, I’d rather be on the other side in a tight match up.
I’m going for a big upset here.
*All odds correct at time of posting