Ravens battling schedule as much as Philip Rivers and Chargers

BALTIMORE -- When Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle reached the locker room on Sunday, he saw a text from a familiar name.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had sent a message to his former teammate: "Great win. Let the week begin."

Weddle had just come off the field after a hard-fought 20-12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rivers had time to play with his phone because he's been off since the Chargers upset the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

With Saturday's game at the Chargers, Baltimore knows it has to overcome Rivers, the potential return of running back Melvin Gordon and a top-10 defense. The other challenge is the schedule.

The Ravens (8-6) must travel cross-country to play one of the hottest teams in the NFL on one fewer day of rest. The Chargers (11-3) are working on three extra days of rest, having played on Thursday.

"It's funny how that works. It's obviously a disadvantage," Weddle said. "We're going to use this as motivation. It's stacked up against us. We're going to be the underdog. No one is going to think we're going to win. This just adds to the game. Would we like to have 10 days to prepare for one of the best teams in the league? Of course, but we don't. Why worry about it or use it as an excuse?"

If this scheduling disadvantage sounds familiar, it's because this happened to Baltimore last season. In Week 16, the Ravens played host to the Colts on a short week while Indianapolis had extra days off after playing the previous Thursday.

The Ravens beat the Colts 23-16, but there is a difference between facing an Indianapolis team without Andrew Luck last year and going against a Chargers team that's tied with the Chiefs for the best record in the AFC.

"I try not to think about that too much," left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. "Whatever day of the week they have us playing, that's the day I'm going to play."

This is the second time this month that Baltimore has had to go against a more rested team. On Dec. 2, the Ravens played at the Atlanta Falcons, who were coming off a Thanksgiving night game. Baltimore was still able to beat Atlanta 26-16.

"It is what it is. For us, it's get ready for the next game," wide receiver Willie Snead said. "It's a huge game for us."

There are scenarios in which the Ravens could end up leading the AFC North after next week's games or get eliminated from the postseason for a fourth straight season.

Baltimore can take over first place in the AFC North if the Ravens beat the Chargers in Week 16 and the Steelers (8-5-1) lose at the New Orleans Saints.

The Ravens would get knocked out of the playoff hunt if they lose at the Chargers and three teams (Steelers, Colts and Titans) all win. Pittsburgh has a half-game lead on Baltimore in the AFC North, and either the Colts (8-6) or Titans (8-6) would get to 10 wins with a victory in Week 16 because they meet in the regular-season finale.

The Ravens' playoff chances are at only 29 percent, and their odds of capturing the division are at 18.8 percent. When looking at the AFC's No. 6 seed, the Colts (38.6 percent) and Titans (36.8 percent) are now considered the favorites over the Ravens (10.1 percent), largely because of Baltimore's game at the Chargers.

With so much at stake, it's interesting that the schedule doesn't offer a more level playing field for the Ravens and Chargers.

"Honestly, we don't care," cornerback Brandon Carr said Sunday. "I'm going to sleep hard tonight and get some film of these guys tomorrow. It is what it is. You have to adjust on the fly. We're in a good position right now for December football. We can't look at that part and harp on that. This is a chance for us to continue to get closer in this hunt."