The most anticipated matchup of the year thus far takes place Monday night when the Kansas City Chiefs face off against the Baltimore Ravens. This game features two superstar young quarterbacks and two of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have bested the Ravens the last two years and are looking to make it three in a row.
This is a tough matchup for any team. The Ravens have tailored their offense to the supremely talented and athletic quarterback, Lamar Jackson. They utilize his rushing ability and build off of that with play actions and bootlegs. Don’t be surprised to see them go empty too. They like to spread teams out and Jackson is showing he can sling a little too.
The Ravens do have vulnerabilities that can be exploited though too. Their defense is fast and attacking but does have some holes. The Chiefs have the best player on the planet and if there is a weakness he will find it.
Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst matchups for the Chiefs and Ravens game.
Mark Andrews (the Ravens tight ends) against the Chiefs linebacking core
This is a scary one. Last year the Ravens targeted their tight ends on five passes on their first two drives alone. The Chiefs linebackers have not gotten any better and Mark Andrews is one of the best in the league. If he gets matched up against Hitchens, Nieman, or Wilson the Chiefs are in a serious mismatch. I would look to the Chiefs using Daniel Sorenson or even Tyrann Mathieu in those situations.
The Chiefs tackling against Lamar Jackson
Jackson may be the most dangerous athlete in the NFL with the ball in his hands. The Chiefs defense has missed the second-most tackles of any team in the NFL in the first two weeks. The tackling has to be better. If they let Jackson break off big runs they are going to set themselves up for a long day. Force Jackson to beat you in the pocket.
Marquise Brown against Rashad Fenton
Brown is one of the fastest WRs in the NFL. If Ward can’t go and Fenton has to play in his place I do not like Fenton matched up on Brown. Fenton is too slow and gets too grabby in man coverage. Ward isn’t a great matchup either because of his lack of top-end speed, but he can be physical enough with him at the line of scrimmage.
Surprisingly enough I think L’jarius is the best Chiefs corner to face off with Brown and it is because of his physical traits. He is long and fast and will be able to run with Brown on the deep shots.
Eric Fisher against Matthew Judon
Judon gave Fisher fits last year. So did Pernell McPhee for that matter. The Chiefs offensive line, in general, has struggled a bit early in the year. They have faced formidable opponents in the first two weeks and have another one this week. Also, Geoff Schwartz, former Kansas City Chiefs lineman, tweeted out that he thinks Mahomes is drifting to far in the pocket again. This needs to get cleaned up and quickly with the Chiefs traveling to Baltimore.
Travis Kelce against Chuck Clark
The Ravens like to play a lot of man coverage. If the Chiefs can get situations where Clark is matched up on Kelce they need to take advantage of it. Kelce has a good size advantage is the weakest spot in the Ravens secondary that has three very good corners in Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith. Kelce had seven catches for 49 yards last year and should be targeted early and often once again this year.
Tyreek Hill on DeShon Elliot
Elliot plays a lot of the deep middle safety for the Ravens and can be exploited with speed. I specifically like this matchup off play-action deep shots. The Chiefs showed two play-action deep shots in the first two drives of last year’s game and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few early again.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire against LJ Fort or Patrick Queen
Edwards-Helaire has a very big advantage over these two in the passing game. Fort more so than Queen, but he should be able to beat either one of them in man coverage. As much man as the Ravens have shown I think there are going to be opportunities to showcase CEH’s ability in the passing game. I don’t even mind getting him out wide in empty and seeing if one of those linebackers will follow him out there and force them to cover out in space. It is one of the reasons they drafted him early, so it is time for the rookie to make his money.
This game is going to be a dog fight and should be extremely close once again. I do think the Chiefs, while underdogs, have a real chance to make a statement to the rest of the NFL. Mahomes is going to have to be fantastic and the defense is going to have to tackle better, but they should be in this game right to the end.
Some interesting notes from watching the All-22 film on the Ravens, they seem to struggle with quarters coverage. The Texans played a lot of it and held the Ravens to just 177 passing yards. Now, they gave up 230 on the ground, but that game was closer than the score indicated. Additionally, last year the Buffalo Bills played a ton of quarters coverage against them and probably did the best job of any team that has played them yet. They really kept Jackson in check for the entirety of the game. It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs try to play a little more quarters than usual.
Additionally, expect play-action shots early and often as mentioned previously. I also would expect a ton of meshes and crossers with as much man as the Ravens tend to play. I would like to see some quick screens to whichever WR Peters is covering and force him to tackle. If Watkins is healthy this would be a great role for him because of his physicality running with the ball in his hands and experience doing it at Clemson.
Also, double moves can get be done on Peters. He is super talented, but tends to be aggressive and get beat from time to time. He may play too far off Hill to be able to do with him, so Hardman may be the man for this job.
Patrick Mahomes showed once again last week that any game he plays in the Chiefs will have a chance to win. It doesn’t matter how poorly they play he will give them a chance at the end of the day. He is going to have to have another magical night on Monday to pull off this upset.