Chiefs’ look to bottle up Ravens’ Jackson
The Chiefs (2-0) and Ravens (2-0) collide in a Week 3 NFL heavyweight bout on ESPN's Monday Night Football at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
Both powerhouse teams are favorites to advance to the postseason, and this game has plenty at stake, even in the early stages of the season given only one team will have a first-round bye.
The Chiefs hold a 6-3 edge in the regular-season series and have won the last three meetings, including last year's 33-28 victory at Arrowhead Stadium. There's also no apparent home-field advantage for the Ravens, as the Chiefs are 4-1 at games played at M&T Bank Stadium.
Still, this game will have it all.
From two MVP quarterbacks to a battle of two of the NFL's best kickers to the Chiefs saying hello to an old friend in cornerback Marcus Peters, among so many others, what isn't there to not like about what shapes out to be an excellent game?
Here are four key areas to monitor for the Chiefs, as the team looks to reach 3-0 against a formidable foe.
BOTTLE UP JACKSON
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is a problem.
The 2019 MVP can do it all as one of the NFL's elite dual-threat signal-callers, and the Chiefs should be quite familiar with his skill set.
In Week 3 of the 2019 season, Jackson threw for 267 yards and rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown. He finished the season rushing for 1,206 yards, an NFL record for a single-season effort by a quarterback.
Jackson has come into his own as a passer, as he currently holds a passer rating of 136.6, which is second only to Seattle's Russell Wilson (140). In comparison, Kansas City's elite quarterback Patrick Mahomes holds a 104.0 rating entering Week 3.
Baltimore's star quarterback has numerous weapons in the passing game with wide receivers Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin and Willie Snead. Toss in tight end Mark Andrew for good measure, and the Chiefs have a lot of issues to worry about.
With Jackson at the helm, the Ravens rank among the league leaders in numerous statistical categories, including third in points per game (35.5), fourth in yards per play (6.4) and 12th in total yards per game (394), among other areas.
As Jackson goes, so go the Ravens.
Containing the dangerous signal-caller must be a priority.
GEAR UP AGAINST THE RUN
The Chiefs absorbed a punch to the nose in Week 2, as the Los Angeles Chargers gouged Kansas City's defense with 183 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Last week proved far from an ideal warm-up with the Ravens up next.
In addition to Jackson's ability to hurt an opponent with his legs, the Ravens have running backs Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. The Chiefs have an unenviable task of dealing with Jackson and a three-headed backfield, which enters the game averaging 170.5 yards rushing per game (fourth-best in the league).
The Ravens will run the ball regardless of score and the Chiefs should know.
Facing a 23-6 deficit in last season's Week 3 matchup, Baltimore stayed true to what they are on offense en route to finishing the contest with 203 yards rushing and four touchdowns on 32 carries. Ingram paced the punishing ground attack with 103 yards and three scores.
This is no easy matchup for the Chiefs, who enter the contest ranked a dismal 27th against the run (150.5 yards allowed per game).
CHIEFS OFFENSIVE LINE AGAINST RAVENS' FRONT
The Chiefs experienced protection issues against the Chargers' stout defensive line, and it won't get easier against the Ravens' 3-4 base look.
The Baltimore front features Brandon Williams, Derek Wolfe and Calais Campbell, and outside linebackers Pernell McPhee and Matthew Judon can be disruptive off the edges. Rookie middle linebacker Patrick Queen is also a headache.
"You've got a lot of guys, they tend to like to blitz a lot, too, go one-on-one a lot so they can roll those guys through," Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said. "Everyone's a little bit different and they're all good players. They do a really good job of it.
"Who you're going against isn't as cookie cutter as some weeks where, 'Oh, I'm going to see this guy 85 percent of the snaps.' You're going to get a rotation of them. They're able to roll through. The front seven seems like its 12 or 13 deep, and it's pretty much all awesome players."
Add the players together to the Ravens' blitz schemes and it could equal a very long day for the Chiefs' front five if last week's protection issues linger into Week 3.
MAKE A STATEMENT
It's far from a secret the Chiefs have a bullseye target on them as the defending Super Bowl champions.
Moreover, it's no secret the Ravens aspire another shot at championship glory after their 14-2 season ended abruptly in the postseason with an upset loss to the Tennessee Titans.
The Chiefs can't afford to start slow in this game like they did in Week 2 against a rookie quarterback. Instead, the Chiefs need to take the fight directly to the Ravens with an aggressive approach and leave little doubt over who the big shot on the block really is, especially with the game being broadcast to a national prime-time audience.
A side note to history: Going back to 2006, 17 games have boasted two 2-0 teams in a Week 3 matchup. This weekend gives NFL fans two more with the Chiefs-Ravens and Rams-Bills contests.
Since 2006, three teams that won the Week 3 game when on to win the Super Bowl: Chiefs last season, New England Patriots in 2016 and the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.
Will history repeat itself?