Here we are, folks. The one we’ve all been waiting for.
This is, undoubtedly, the biggest game on the Kansas City Chiefs’ schedule this year. Hell, it may be the biggest regular season game in the NFL this year.
Both teams have been on a roll to start the season, but Kansas City’s struggles are highlighted when looking at how the Baltimore Ravens have fared, beating their two opponents by a combined score of 71-22.
On paper, Baltimore has all the pieces to lock down the Chiefs passing game and employ a similar strategy to the Chargers. And when looking at the tape, it would be understandable to be concerned about Steve Spagnuolo’s ability to contain Lamar Jackson.
However, Mahomes and Co. are 2-0 when facing Jackson, so Chiefs fans shouldn’t have much to worry about. That being said, let’s take a look at the match-ups that will determine who eats a W… and who goes home hungry.
Chris Jones vs. the Baltimore Interior O-Line
The biggest question mark for the Ravens heading into the season was who would replace stalwart RG Marshal Yanda after his retirement. The answer to that, at least for now, is rookie third-round pick Tyre Phillips out of Mississippi State, Chris Jones’ alma mater. However, I don’t expect Jones to take it easy on his fellow Bulldog. Phillips had a decent outing against Cleveland, but struggled in pass protection against Houston, as they aggressively attacked the right side of the line.
More concerns arise with the rest of the interior as well. Starting C Matt Skura went down with a knee injury in Week 12 of last year, and has made an incredible comeback. However, he is not quite at 100% yet. Couple that with LG Bradley Bozeman consistently having problems with footwork and leverage, and it’s entirely possible that Chris Jones is able to wreck the Ravens’ game plan. Expect Lamar Jackson do his best to stay upright on his own against the interior pressure.
Chiefs Receivers vs. Ravens Secondary
I wrote last week about how the Chargers had the second-best CBs in the league after the Ravens. Well, now KC gets the real thing.
With two first-team All-Pros on the perimeter (and occasionally in the slot), plus Jimmy Smith, Chuck Clark, and DeShon Elliott, Kansas City will get put to the test. However, the Ravens have consistently had trouble covering TEs thus far, so keep an eye out for a big game by Travis Kelce.
As shown last week, a good CB group can contain the Chiefs’ passing attack. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters are sure to make life hell for Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. I expect Andy Reid to test the Ravens deep to try and take advantage of inexperienced FS DeShon Elliott, the replacement for Earl Thomas III. However, Kansas City roasted Baltimore when Thomas was there, so maybe it won’t be a problem after all.
Kansas City O-line vs. “The Monstars”
Last week Kansas City’s offensive line looked… offensive. They consistently allowed pressure to the QB, and the Ravens will be no different. The “Monstars,” consisting of Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, and Brandon Williams, have already developed great chemistry and disrupted both fronts they’ve played against.
Baltimore blitzes at a higher rate than almost anyone in the league, meaning every member of the Chiefs’ O-line will have to win their individual assignments with little-to-no help. If they put up a performance like they did against the Chargers, Kansas City could very well be in trouble.
Chiefs Front-Seven vs the Ravens Ground Game
Here, we have perhaps the biggest mismatch of the game. The Ravens have a five-headed rushing attack with Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, and the one-and-only Lamar Jackson. Each brings something different to the game, and all of them are hard to tackle.
If the Chiefs have to rely on their linebackers to make plays at the second level, Kansas City is going to be in for a rough day. Baltimore rushed for 186 yards in the second half alone against Houston and set the league rushing record the previous year. Spagnuolo’s crew has had issues with tackling all year, and Baltimore has a road-grating right side of their O-line. If Kansas City can’t stop the run it could very well lead to their downfall
Clyde Edwards-Helaire vs. Patrick Queen
This will be one of the more exciting match-ups of the game. The two former teammates from LSU have stepped into major roles for their respective teams, with each performing admirably.
Patrick Queen has done an outstanding job filling the middle of the defense and has proven to be a strength in coverage. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, even when stifled on the ground, showed against the Chargers that he can be an asset in the passing game as well. With the Chiefs’ WRs dealing with the Ravens secondary, this will be a key battle in the short passing game to decide whether or not Kansas City can move the chains. Expect the two former Tigers to unleash their claws Monday night.
This is going to be a close game. A REALLY close game. However, Andy Reid has had John Harbaugh’s number for a while now, and that continues. The Chiefs hold on for a last-minute stop, sealing a Week 3 victory.
Final score: 35-34, Chiefs
(Featured Image Credit: Chiefs.com)