The past, present, and future of the NFL collided at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, as the Ravens beat the Cardinals 23-17. This week the Ravens are playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City. When the Ravens played the Chiefs last year, also on the road, the Ravens played with the Chiefs the whole game. The Ravens ended up losing that game despite multiple opportunities to make a stop to win the game.
That was last year. This is a faster and more talented Ravens team. Second-year tight end Mark Andrews has made a big impact in both the Dolphins and Cardinals game. Rookie wide receiver Marquise (Hollywood) Brown set records in his incredible start to the season. The Ravens also upgraded a defense that in 2018 blew the game against the Chiefs. Earl Thomas replaced Eric Weddle at safety, and the Ravens made a big upgrade in their pass protection at linebacker moving on from C.J. Mosley.
The Ravens have only had two major injuries so far, both cornerbacks, Tavon Young, and Jimmy Smith. Young had just been signed to a contract extension when he hurt his neck and ended his season before it started. Then in week one, Jimmy Smith got injured in the first half. So far the Ravens secondary has struggled without their cornerbacks. Anthony Averett has had trouble stepping up, and the Ravens have blown multiple coverages against the Dolphins and Cardinals. The Ravens know that if they want to win Sunday, blowing coverage just won’t cut it.
While the Ravens have cornerback issues, the Chiefs will be playing without speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Hill also got injured in week one, and last year Hill made one of the fantastic plays that got the Chiefs the win last year. While Hill won’t be playing against the Ravens, the Ravens still have to deal with the best tight end in the NFL, Travis Kelce. Kelce had a field day last year against the Ravens, and if the Ravens want a win, shutting down Kelce is a must. There is no easy way to do that. With the absence of Hill, the Ravens could double team Kelce, but that might not be enough. No safety on the Ravens can deal with Kelce, and the cornerbacks will have trouble when Kelce lines up inside. The Ravens will likely blitz Mahomes to try and force errant throws but the Ravens defense will have to step up as a unit to stop the high powered Chiefs offense. No blown coverage. No miscommunication. No mental mistakes, including pre-snap penalties. And if the Ravens defense can avoid these mistakes, it will be a tough day for the Chiefs offense.
The Ravens offense is one of the most potent and fastest offenses in the NFL. Any player on offense at any time can go to the house on any given play. But the Chiefs defense has gotten better. The Chiefs traded for Frank Clark from the Seahawks, and they already had a good pass rush. Lamar Jackson has shown tremendous poise and improvement through the first two weeks of the season, and he will need to build on that on Sunday. The Ravens will need to have an effective run game that doesn’t involve Lamar Jackson. In week two Jackson ran for over 100 yards while the running backs had approximately 60 yards on about 20 carries. I mentioned Marquise Brown earlier. He lit up the Dolphins in week one, and the Jackson threw to him thirteen times against the Cardinals. The Chiefs are going to concentrate their pass defense, on stopping Mark Andrews and Brown. Likely the Ravens targeted Brown a lot to start the season to open the passing games for Willie Snead. Snead has not gotten many targets to start the season, and he will be the most under the radar receiver in the game.
Both defenses will need to stop the rushing attacks of the opposing offenses. The Ravens have a four-headed monster with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, and Lamar Jackson. All of the players in the backfield have different rushing styles, and the Chiefs have to win the one on one battles on the defensive line. The Chiefs have veteran LeSean McCoy, and speedy running back Damien Williams. Both teams want to have the running game to have the play-action be more effective.
Jackson vs. Mahomes could be the next Manning vs. Brady. Playoff seeding is on the line, and both teams will need to play their best football. I don’t know who is going to win, but I do know it is going to be an amazing game.