How do the Baltimore Ravens beat the Kansas City Chiefs? This is how:
Television time-slot notwithstanding, the Baltimore Ravens’ matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday is the marquee matchup of the week. Andy Reid against his protege, John Harbaugh. Lamar Jackson against Patrick Mahomes. Mark Andrews against Travis Kelce.
Have we mentioned Lamar Jackson against Patrick Mahomes?
The Chiefs and the New England Patriots are the odds-on favorites in the AFC in the eyes of many pundits, and they’ve earned it — after all, they did face off in last year’s conference championship and both teams have come out of the gates with impressive starts.
But the Ravens have also earned their share of plaudits from many observers, and a win over the Chiefs would firmly place them on the short list of championship contenders — and could earn them a key tie-breaker over the Chiefs later down the road, as was astutely pointed out to me earlier today on Twitter.
And make no mistake about it, the Ravens are perfectly capable of winning this game. Here are three keys I see to the Ravens pulling off the upset.
1. Be efficient on offense
Yes, the big plays are great, and the Ravens could use a few in this game to aid in an upset bid. But they simply can not afford a bunch of three-and-outs or drives that don’t end in points and expect to finish with a higher score than Mahomes and the Chiefs at the end of the game.
Running the ball effectively with Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will help set up play-action passes and keep the Ravens in manageable third down situations. It would also be a nice to see a nine-plus minute drive at some point to keep Mahomes on the sidelines and take some air out of that raucous Kansas City crowd.
Mark Andrews is going to be important in this game, as well. He has apparently become a bit of a security blanket for Jackson on third downs dating back to last season, and hitting those plays will be critical against the Chiefs.
2. Steal possessions on defense
It’s asking a lot to expect the Ravens to shut down this Kansas City offense for 60 minutes. The defensive backfield has shown some communication breakdowns in the first two games, as can be expected early in the season with a new free safety, and shuffling of personnel due to some key injuries at corner.
Mahomes and his receivers don’t require much help to be dangerous, and they will connect on some plays and drives. They’re really good. But an interception by Earl Thomas, a sack by Matt Judon on third down and a pass breakup by Anthony Levine on a pass to Kelce could get the Chiefs offense off the field without doing any damage. Those defensive possessions could be critical to winning this game.
It is vital the Ravens keep the Chiefs off schedule as much as they can this week.
3. Make a play
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Andrews. Ingram. Hill. Jackson, Miles Boykin. Hayden Hurst. There are guys all over this offense who can make an explosive play at absolutely any minute in the game. That has not always been the case with the Ravens.
As important as it is for the Ravens to maintain control of the clock and game and be efficient on offense, a long, explosive touchdown is like found money. Two is even better.
Also accepted would be a punt return by Cyrus Jones, a pick-six by (pick a defender) and a fumble recovery on the Chiefs five that leads to a quick touchdown by the offense. Any points are good points in the NFL, and that’s especially true on the road against the Chiefs.
This is manageable for the Ravens, but they’re going to have to be on their game if they hope to win this one. They can, and I’m guessing they will.