By now we all know the drill. If the Baltimore Ravens are going to make the playoffs, they will need to beat the Cleveland Browns Sunday and have the Alex Smith-less, Chase Daniel-starting Kansas City Chiefs win at home against the San Diego Chargers.
So let’s make this a two-part Prediction Sunday.
Due to injuries to Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel, the Browns will start undrafted rookie quarterback Conner Shaw. Shaw, who had an astounding 24 touchdowns and one interception in his senior year at South Carolina, will be the third rookie quarterback to go against the Ravens in 2014.
The Browns will also be without Josh Gordon again, who was suspended by the team for violating team rules, the team announced in a release Saturday. The Browns managed to give the Ravens a scare back in Week 3 without Gordon, but it’s no doubt a big blow for their offense and Shaw.
When the Ravens are home at M&T bank Stadium, they typically eat rookie quarterbacks alive. And while it won’t be shocking to see Shaw have success against the Ravens secondary, the Ravens should be able to handle Shaw and the Browns with relative ease.
Prediction: Ravens 24, Browns 13
The Chiefs-Chargers game, which is in Kansas City, has that close-game feel even though Chase Daniel is starting for the Chiefs. The Chargers have a banged-up defense and the Chiefs still have Jamaal Charles. But San Diego looks like they have Lady Luck on standing on their sideline after their comeback win over the Ravens, their unbelievable comeback win over San Francisco, and the fact that they get Chase Daniel instead of Alex Smith.
Prediction: Chargers 27, Chiefs 23
When 18 players go on injured reserve, the quarterback of a team you need a win from goes down, your best offensive weapon (Dennis Pitta) has freak injury, your two best defensive players (Jimmy Smith and Haloti Ngata) are gone for the year, and oh yeah, your team is hit with a league-shattering scandal, it probably isn’t your year.