The AFC is the centre of attention in the opening match in the NFL playoffs on Sunday evening as the winners in the North, Baltimore Ravens, play host to the Los Angeles Chargers in the pick of the wildcard weekend matches.
These two sides met just two weeks ago when the Ravens gained control of their division and all but ended the Chargers’ chance of winning theirs so there is a little bit of history between these two which should ensure an excellent match.
You have to give full credit to the Baltimore Ravens for not giving up when it became apparent that as unlikely as it looked with two matches to play, they needed to win their division to make it into the postseason. They went away to the Chargers and won to get destiny in their own hands and then survived a late scare against the Cleveland Browns to secure the division title.
Their campaign turned right around when Joe Flacco picked up an injury which meant that they were forced to start rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. He has displayed good composure and qualities to lead the side to the title but now things ramp up a notch or two and it will be interesting to see if he feels the pinch or continues to thrive. However it goes, he has an elite defence to fall back on.
Los Angeles Chargers
With a 12-4 record for the regular season the Los Angeles Chargers are the unlucky team of the campaign. That would have been good enough to win more than half of the other divisions so they can count themselves unfortunate to be in with a very good Kansas City Chiefs side in the AFC West, and ultimately as hard as they pushed them, they just couldn’t quite overhaul them down the stretch.
The Chargers largely relied on their balanced offense but they are more than adept in the defensive side of the ball. Generally there have been question marks over quarterback Philip Rivers come January, and it will be interesting to see if those doubts remain, or whether he can take on a top class defence and come out on top to silence his critics.
I backed the Baltimore Ravens with a start in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago and they duly won the match and I don’t see anything to sway me from backing them here. Philip Rivers is one of those quarterbacks who doesn’t inspire confidence in the postseason and the Ravens defence are going to have him under pressure throughout the contest.
We’ve seen enough for Lamar Jackson to suggest he has the confidence, composure and most of all the quality to thrive at this stage of the season and he has enough playmakers on offense to build on the ability of the defence to get the Ravens to Foxboro next weekend. I’ll take Baltimore to cover 2.5pts in this one.
Back Baltimore Ravens (-2.5) to beat Los Angeles Chargers for a 4/10 stake at 1.80 with Bet365