Week two’s marquee matchup pits two of the best young QBs in the NFL, with one of them coming in 3-0 against the other, but what do the stats say about this fourth matchup between newfound AFC “rivals?”
The Chiefs’ tough schedule (11th-toughest in NFL) places them in Baltimore early in the season for Sunday Night Football this upcoming gameday. As one might imagine, this matchup has caused sports analysts and fans alike to over-analyze and hype up the two AFC powerhouses for the entire week.
Even though Baltimore’s superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson said that this game is “not about me and Mahomes…it’s the Ravens versus the Kansas City Chiefs” that doesn’t stop the NFL media from overinflating the two quarterbacks’ “rivalry” that has blossomed to this point over the past three seasons.
The two QBs have done quite a bit for their respective squads over their short careers so far, both bringing playoff victories (one for Jackson, six for Mahomes) and NFL MVP awards (’18 & ’19) to their teams, but Mahomes will come into Sunday’s matchup undefeated against the likes of Jackson and the Ravens.
Obviously that 3-0 record against Baltimore is one of the most stale storylines of the weekend but it goes without saying that Jackson’s “kryptonite” is definitely going to be tougher than usual this time around thanks to a bevy of injuries on Jackson’s side and the return of key defensive pieces on Mahomes’ side.
Baltimore’s 15 players on injured reserve (IR) is not only the most in the NFL but earlier this week it was announced that the starting LT Ronnie Stanley is not expected to play against KC–a huge blow to Jackson’s chances at beating Andy Reid and the Chiefs for the first time.
On top of Stanley, there are other key players–mainly starters–that are classified as ‘out’ or ‘questionable’ for Sunday’s matchup: WR Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (ankle), WR/KR Devin Duvernay (groin), CB Marlon Humphrey (groin), and CB Chris Westry (knee).
These players are all additions to a growing list of injuries that include former Chief CB Marcus Peters, who tore his ACL in practice earlier this season, and all three running backs Baltimore started the season with (J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill) are done for the season as well.
All this comes right before the week where Chiefs’ DE Frank Clark and S Tyrann Mathieu look to take the field for the first time this regular season after lower-grade injuries and COVID-19 protocols held them out of week one’s matchup.
Due to the massive upswing in injuries to Jackson’s offensive and defensive starters, it would appear that he has more to worry about this time around compared to the last three games against KC.
Lamar Jackson has been a pretty efficient QB, to say the least, especially during the regular season. But against the Chiefs, he seemingly shrinks to the worst version of himself.
In fact, Jackson is 30-5 against the rest of the league during the regular season, yet he’s famously 0-3 vs Kansas City. Jackson has averaged a 102.5 QBR over his first 38 starts. Against the Chiefs, however, he is only averaging a 78.9 QBR.
Meanwhile, Mahomes seems to do better than average when he plays against the Ravens with a PFF passing grade of 88.3 coming against Baltimore in his career while Jackson’s is a measly 49.4–his lowest against any team in the league.
Mahomes also averages 378.6 yards through the air against Baltimore with an average QBR of 116.2, which is his highest rating against teams he’s played three times or more.
The lopsided statistics between the two first-round draft picks don’t stop there, in their three head-to-head matchups Mahomes has out-thrown Jackson by 625 passing yards (1,136 to 511). Mahomes’ 70% completion percentage also outdoes Jackson’s 53% and Mahomes’ 10 total TDs (nine passing) trumps Jackson’s total of four (three passing).
While Jackson has more rushing yards (196) than Mahomes (32) in the “rivalry,” Jackson has also been sacked five more times than the Super Bowl LIV champion–a stat that will likely become more one-sided with the Chiefs’ healthy defense looking dangerous during the Ravens’ ill-timed injury crisis.
By the looks of it Jackson will have to do everything perfectly and do it all himself in Sunday night’s matchup, not only because his blindside will be protected by replacement linemen but also because he is down to practice squad running backs behind him and his best wide receiver *arguably* is likely not going to be on the field beside former Chiefs’ WR Sammy Watkins.
Home field advantage
One of the only positive things that Jackson has going for him is that he will have home-field advantage with a full stadium of fans cheering for him and trying to make it harder for Mahomes and the Kansas City offense to work their schemes.
Jackson’s regular-season record at home (15-4) may seem like a positive for Ravens fans, but when looking deeper at the 2019 MVP’s stats at M&T Stadium compared to his stats on road games it actually calls for more worry.
At M&T Stadium in Baltimore Jackson has a passer rating of 97.9, throwing for 3,615 yards, 34 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Not terrible, right? But compare those to Jackson’s regular-season record away from home (also 15-4) and maybe fans would like it more if Jackson was playing at Arrowhead.
When Jackson is away from home he not only has a higher passer rating (107.4) but he has more passing yards (3,705), more passing TDs (35), and fewer interceptions (7). A great group of stats for showing off Jackson’s talent and reliability in away games, but not great for Sunday’s upcoming home game.
So, in the end, Jackson does not have much going for him coming into Sunday’s game. He has been told over and over again how much better Mahomes is than him, especially when playing each other, but now with less help on the offensive line and in the running back room, it doesn’t look good for the Ravens’ star QB.
But in the NFL anything can happen, surprises happen every weekend, and sometimes underdogs go above and beyond to pull their team to victory. Either way, Sunday’s matchup is going to be one of the best of the weekend, even if the stats say that Kansas City should win like they have the last three games (by an average of 7.3 points).