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Ravens to give Chargers’ run defense toughest test in 2018

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 9: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs out of the pocket with Anthony Hitchens #53 and teammate Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs in pursuit during the second quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 9: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens runs out of the pocket with Anthony Hitchens #53 and teammate Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs in pursuit during the second quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium on December 9, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
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After toppling the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15, the Los Angeles Chargers will face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16, a squad that features a nearly unstoppable rushing offense.  

The Chargers’ run defense has progressed this season, but they should prepare for an absolute track meet in Week 16.

Coming off their biggest win of the 2018 campaign, the Bolts face another tough test on Dec. 22 when they host the 8-6 Ravens IN a Saturday night affair. The AFC’s two Wild Card playoff spots are taken up by these two squads, as the Chargers and Ravens are the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively.

And while the 11-3 group from L.A. features an MVP-caliber quarterback, the home side will be tasked with stopping arguably the NFL’s most potent rushing attack. Baltimore’s run game is spearheaded by electric rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has won four of his first five career starts.

The University of Louisville graduate has injected game-changing energy into the Ravens’ offense since taking the starting gig from Joe Flacco in Week 11. While the passing attack is still inconsistent, Jackson’s uncanny rushing ability has changed Baltimore’s attack for the better, and the numbers back it up.

Jackson is currently the Ravens’ leading rusher with 566 yards on the ground off of 114 carries. The 2018 first-round draft pick is averaging five yards per carry and has three touchdown runs.  Jackson has rushed for at least 65 yards in each game since Week 11, which includes a 119-yard performance in his first career start. He leads all NFL quarterbacks in rushing.

Lining up right behind Jackson is fellow rookie Gus Edwards, who has sprinted away with the starting running back job. His ability to burst up the middle of the field with speed and power is coupled nicely with his perimeter running skills. Since he was paired with Jackson in the backfield, Edwards’ production has trended upwards.

Since Week 11, the first-year tailback has racked up 486 rushing yards off 96 carries and two touchdowns. This five-game stretch includes three 100-yard rushing performances, which includes two consecutive outings in Weeks 11 and 12.  Edwards has totaled 550 rushing yards for the entire 2018 season.

Baltimore is second in the NFL in rushing offense with 141.9 rushing yards per game.

The Chargers are the second AFC West powerhouse to face the Ravens in the last three weeks. Baltimore nearly upset the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in week 14. And while the Bolts defeated the Andy Reid-coached squad in week 15, Baltimore’s high-powered rushing offense could give L.A. major difficulties.

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Kansas City’s offense is backed by a high-powered passing attack featuring dynamic quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But without star running back Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs’ ground game is rather mediocre, which allows the defense to focus on containing the passing offense.

This Baltimore ground attack is on a different level. The Jackson-Edwards combo has the chance to run laps in and around the Bolts’ defense. Furthermore, a stout running offense is key to winning games in December and January because it forces opposing defenses to exert so much energy when they are 14 games into a season.

The Ravens’ rushing attack can also take large chunks of time off the clock and keep the explosive Chargers offense off the field for a long time. If Baltimore can execute such a game plan, then the Bolts fourth loss of the season could be on the horizon.

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