It’s the first trip to the postseason for the AFC fifth-seeded Chargers since 2013 when they were still in San Diego. They just had the misfortune this year of playing in the same division as fellow 12-win team Kansas City, which relegated the Bolts to Wild-Card status.
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Fourth-seeded Baltimore, the AFC North champion, is in the playoffs for the first time since 2014. It’s not clear if this will be the last hurrah for Coach John Harbaugh. His job was in major jeopardy when the club was 4-5, but when starting QB Joe Flacco went down injured (he’s healthy now) the season turned under rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, the former Heisman winner from Louisville. The Ravens have become a very run-heavy team under Jackson, who is as mobile as any QB in league history.
Ownership has said it would like Harbaugh back next year but still hasn’t extended his contract. Some believe other teams with openings might call the Ravens and offer a draft pick to land Harbaugh. Harbaugh is signed through the 2019 season, but trades for coaches have happened in the past.
The Ravens are 7-5 all-time against the Chargers and this is their first playoff meeting. The teams met in Week 16 in Los Angeles and the Ravens were 22-10 upset winners. Jackson threw for 204 yards and a score and rushed for 39 yards. Philip Rivers had an off game for L.A. with just 181 yards passing and two picks.
The road team has covered the past four in the series.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers had an outside shot at the AFC’s top seed entering Week 17 but had to win in Denver – which they did 23-9 – and have the Chiefs lose as huge home favourites against the Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs won that game easily. Rivers was having one of his best seasons but has been in a bit of funk of late as he had a third straight two interception game Sunday.
L.A. has a combined seven turnovers the past two weeks. Rivers could get back a big target for this game in tight end Hunter Henry. He tore his ACL in May but is ahead of schedule in his recovery and could be activated. Henry has 12 TD catches in his two NFL seasons.
Baltimore won the AFC North for the first time since 2012 with Sunday’s 26-24 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Jackson now has a 6-1 record since taking over as the starter and is the first rookie QB to win the AFC North since Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger in 2004. Jackson threw for 179 yards and rushed for 90 and two touchdowns against the Browns.
The Ravens gashed Cleveland for 296 yards on the ground. The Browns were driving for a potential winning field-goal attempt, but Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley picked off another former Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield, to clinch the victory. Baltimore had three picks overall.