Another week, another impressive performance from the new look Baltimore Ravens offense.
Lamar Jackson and the offense led the Ravens to a 23-17 hard-fought victory over an extremely competitive Arizona Cardinals club in last week’s home opener in front a raucous M&T Bank Stadium crowd. Jackson finished the day 24-37 for 272 and two touchdowns passes. He also pitched in 16 carries for 120 yards as well. Jackson became the first QB in regular season history to put up 270+ passing and 120+ rushing in a game.
Jackson was once again critical of himself despite the big day as the Ravens had a key delay of game penalty:
Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown had big games, combining for 16 catches, 198 yards and a TD. Jackson commented on his chemistry with Andrews who is quickly becoming one of the best tight ends in football.
Coach Harbaugh was complimentary of Hollywood’s hands after he and Jackson linked up for a game clinching 41 yards bomb on third and 11 late in the fourth quarter:
Next the Ravens will head to the site of Jackson’s only regular season loss, Arrowhead Stadium, to take on a 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs team that took down the Oakland Raiders 28-10 last week on the road. This game will be the home opener for the Chiefs who are off to a high-flying start once again and are 25-7 over their last four seasons at home.
Here’s what to watch for ahead of Sunday’s much anticipated matchup.
This matchup will play a huge part in deciding who emerges from this AFC showdown victorious on Sunday.
Skura has been serviceable again so far this year but that’s the best that can be said of the second year starter at center. Jones has been a monster so far this season despite only registering one sack so far. Here’s a look at his dominance:
The Ravens could look to help Skura inside, perhaps electing to double team Jones or chip with Pat Ricard. If Skura gets manhandled one-on-one early in this matchup, look for the Ravens to make an adjustment. Jones had 15.5 sacks last season for the Chiefs and has proven to be a game wrecker throughout his NFL career.
The Ravens cannot allow Jones to throw off the rhythm of their offense. A collapsing pocket could lead to Jackson having to escape and could cause the Ravens WR group to alter their routes to get open sooner.
Keep an eye on #95 this Sunday.
2) Can the Ravens contain Patrick Mahomes?
The reigning MVP just continues to light it up early this season. Mahomes is an astounding 55-77 this year with 821 yards, 7 touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. That’s good for a QB rating of 136.3! The only players with comparable stats to Mahomes through two weeks are Jackson and Cowboys QB Dak Prescott.
Last year Mahomes was the difference in KC’S 27-24 OT victory over the Ravens in December. He threw for 377 yards and a pair of touchdowns and made the play of the game late in the fourth quarter with the Ravens ahead 24-17 on 4th and 9:
There’s not a damn thing you can do about a play of that caliber. The difficulty of that throw is astounding. Sometimes big players make big plays and you have to deal with it. The good news for the Ravens is that Tyreek Hill won’t be playing this week due to his collarbone injury. The bad news is Mahomes and the Chiefs offense are still loaded.
Returning are Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, and Demarcus Robinson (who?). Robinson went for six catches 172 yards and a pair of TD’s last week while Kelce went for seven catches 107 yards and a touchdown grab of his own. The Chiefs also have rookie Mecole Hardman who had four catches for 61 yards and a TD last week.
Mahomes and company will look to pressure a Ravens secondary that struggled last week. Kyler Murray threw for 349 yards and the Cardinals saw Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald both go over 100 yards receiving. The Ravens were able to hold the Cards down in the redzone which kept the scoring at a minimum.
The Ravens will need a big bounce back week from their secondary if they want to remain competitive in this one.
3) Can the Ravens keep pace?
You cannot really stop the Chiefs. Since Mahomes has become the starting QB, the Chiefs have scored 34.75 points per game. They have 10 games of 35 points or more and 7 games of over 40 points or more. With that being said, the Ravens defense did a decent job keeping Mahomes in check last year in the 27-24 OT loss. Despite Earl Thomas claim to “eliminate all big plays”, Mahomes and company will likely reach the 30 point mark Sunday. Can the Ravens keep pace though?
This much we know: The Ravens are far better equipped to keep pace this year than they were last year. The Ravens threw for 147 yards and two touchdowns last season as part of their ball control/risk adverse offense. They have shown the desire and the ability to take more deep shots but this week I’d prefer to see a more ball control oriented attack.
The leading WR’s were Willie Snead, Michael Crabtree and John Brown. Andrews didn’t have a catch on two targets. With Brown in the fray, Andrews looking like the game’s next elite tight end, and Mark Ingram in the backfield, the Ravens have more weapons to match Kansas City’s high powered offense.
And then there’s Jackson, who is not bad for a running back. He has been lights out through two weeks, primarily passing the ball all over the park in week one, and truly showing his dual threat abilities in week two. The league is already taking notice of Baltimore’s second year budding superstar, but a win over the reigning MVP in the Chiefs home opener would send shock waves across the NFL.
Jake McDonnell: Chiefs 43 Ravens 38
Nolan McGraw: Chiefs 30 Ravens 28
Isaiah Stumpf: Ravens 27 Chiefs 24
Ian Schultz: Chiefs 36 Ravens 27
I really wanted to pick the Ravens in this game. However, the combination of the weapons that the Chiefs have at their disposal and the fact that Arrowhead Stadium will be ROCKIN for the Chiefs home opener, I couldn’t do it. The Ravens will do enough to keep this game competitive but ultimately Mahomes and company will be too much for Baltimore.
Image Credit: Press Box