The Baltimore Ravens open up their 2009 NFL season by playing host to the Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium in downtown Baltimore. The weather today is supposed to be sunny with temperatures in the upper 70's, perfect fall weather from a fan's perspective, although it figures to get a little hot down on the field.
Use this story as base for your pre- and in-game comments, to discuss what's coming up and happens as frequently as play-by-play. Depending how you look at it, I will unfortunately have to miss the Open Thread during the game as I will be in my seats in Club Level 206, which to me is a very fortunate excuse. If you're anywhere near me, come visit either during the game or in Lot J prior to the start for some great tailgating, as the beers are on me!
More after the "Jump."
The Ravens have not been a polite host as a home team since the Super Bowl year. Without knowing the exact numbers, I recall that other than the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, the Ravens have the best home record in the league since 2000. With a 4-0 record in pre-season, the last time the Ravens went undefeated in exhibition season was the year they won the Super Bowl. While the pre-season usually has little correlation to the regular season, the tone that they set in preparing for the regular season holds a lot of clues as to where they appear ready to go in the next 17 weeks of the regular season. They spent a lot of time on the passing game, getting Joe Flacco and Ray Rice on the same page out of the backfield, as well as trying to establish the connections between Flacco and his receiving corps, which have been repeatedly maligned in the press and on talk radio. Expect a revamped and unleashed air attack, utilizing the cannon for an arm that Flacco showed at times last year. While other than Derrick Mason and Todd Heap, the rest of the wideouts are not exactly household names but should be well known to the rest of the league by the end of the season, starting with the Chiefs this afternoon.
However,make no bones about it, this is a run-first offense for the most part. Expect a greater emphasis on the passing game, but the three-headed monster that includes Ray Rice, Willis McGahee and LeRon McClain will get their fair shares of carries both today and all season long. This team prides itself on the running game and playing suffocating defense and while that does not necessarily make highlights, it is the recipe for a championship.
The Chiefs and their fans keep on insisting that this is not the same team that went a disappointing 2-14 last year and their off season changes should make a huge difference in the 2009 season. While this may end up being true by the end of the season, it should not change the way things will go in game one.
Expect the Ravens defense to be the same ferocious and opportunistic group that led the NFL in interceptions and was 2nd against the run and one of the top overall defenses in the league in 2008. Expect the Chiefs' desire to run the ball to fail and their ability to pass with success limited by heavy pressure on a soft offensive line. The Ravens will wreak havoc all day long regardless of whether Matt Cassel starts, or one of his backups take his place. Most likely, even if Cassel does start, he will not be around at the end of the game. Be it through injury or just to give someone else a try to make a dent in this Ravens defense, the Chiefs will try almost anything including trick plays to move the ball. However, it will be a long day for the Chiefs' offense, although most of it will include standing on the sideline watching their defense try to slow down the Ravens revamped offense, which will continue their trend of controlling the clock and winning the time-of-possession battle.
To many Chiefs' fans, this will sound a lot like an overconfident loyal fan hoping for the best, but there is a reason for the 13 point spread in betting circles. While I am not a big fan of giving almost two touchdowns in any NFL game, I'd rather give the points tomorrow than take them and the Chiefs. I cannot see a game where Kansas City plays well above their heads while the Baltimore Ravens play well below their own abilities. Baltimore knows the window of opportunity for a Super Bowl run with the aging Ray Lewis is closing rapidly and have been on a mission since their heartbreaking loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in last season's AFC Championship Game.
The Ravens control the game on offense and defense and while the Chiefs will never roll over and give up, they are significantly outmanned on both sides of the ball, in the trenches on offense and defense as well as the skill positions. If this game is not over by halftime, it will be by the middle of the third quarter. If any other outcome happens, I will gladly take my medicine and kneel before thee in embarassment of my confident attitude. At the same time, I expect kudos for being correct if my thoughts here pan out.
Ravens win 30-10.