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Ravens News 12/7: AFC Game of the Week, contract year standouts and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

AFC Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-7) - Vinnie Iyer

Lamar Jackson will likely get his chance to go 4-0 as a rookie starter with Joe Flacco hurting, and you can bet Baltimore will use his running, along with that of power back Gus Edwards, to try to play ball control and finish drives in the red zone to help limit the opportunities for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense. But the Ravens’ defense still has some key holes against slot receivers and tight ends, which will line up with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce using their speed and athleticism to break through. Kansas City will get a good lead at some point and tee off on Jackson. PICK: Chiefs win 34-20 and cover the spread.

The Ravens have struggled against tight ends. According to Mike Tagliere, “When targeting tight ends against the Ravens this year, quarterbacks have a 116.3 QB Rating. That’s because they allow a 71.6 percent completion-rate, 8.56 yards per target, and a touchdown every 17.6 targets.”

John Harbaugh still carries two-word message from Andy Reid - Jamison Hensley

Harbaugh, a longtime special-teams coach with the Eagles, remembers walking into Reid’s office in their first year together and always seeing a 3-by-5-inch card right behind his desk. It had two words written on it: “Don’t Judge.”

“You don’t bring all your stuff into the thing,” Harbaugh said. “Take people for who they are and for where they’re at in their life -- as football players, as coaches, whatever –- and let them be who they are. Help them along the way where you can. Give them good advice.”

Harbaugh and Reid are among the top five winningest active coaches in the NFL, with only 8 percentage points separating them. Reid is 204-135-1 (.602), and Harbaugh is 111-76 (.594). Sunday’s game will be the first time they’ll meet in three years, and it carries major playoff implications in the AFC.

Current NFL head coaches with more than five postseason wins are Bill Belichick (28), Andy Reid (11), John Harbaugh (10), Pete Carroll (10), Mike Tomlin (8) and Sean Payton (7).

The NFL’s contract-year standouts - Michael Renner

Za’Darius Smith

73.0 Overall Grade

Another edge defender that seemingly came from nowhere. Smith has already surpassed his single-season high for pressures in a season with 44 so far and ranks seventh among all edge defenders in pass-rushing productivity. Much like Ford, this is so far away from the player we’ve seen before that it’s difficult to trust what we’re seeing. His 82.8 pass-rushing grade is over 20 points higher than his previous best.

With a strong finish to the season, Za’Darius could receive contract offers that exceed $10 million average annual value.

Ravens Wide Receivers Embrace Their Adjustment to Run-First Offense - Clifton Brown

John Brown has only caught two passes in the three games that Jackson has started. But when Jackson misses an opportunity to complete a pass, like he did Sunday when he overthrew a wide-open Brown, the mistake doesn’t break their bond.

“I let him focus on playing his game instead of putting too much in his head,” Brown said. “I just continue to play. We can win with any of our quarterbacks. But, as for Lamar, he’s great. He wants to make those plays. He’ll come up to me and say, ‘My bad.’ I’ll tell him, ‘Just play football. Don’t get stuck on that one play.’”

“Why try to do something different?” Brown said. “That’s what we good at it. We’re winning. They’re doing a great job with the play-calling. If you can’t stop it, why do something different?”

“With those drops, we do have to get better,” Snead said. “I know I do. You never know when the ball’s coming but you have to be ready. It’s an adjustment. It’s something you have to prepare yourself for.”

“You’ve got to believe that,” Snead said. “He’s a young quarterback. That was his first road start, that’s how brand new he is to it. We just have to keep working in practice to complete those shots. In the game, those will come. He’ll be able to step up into it and put it on the money.”

In order to defeat top teams such as the Chiefs this Sunday or the Chargers in Week 16, the Ravens will need more production from their passing offense.

High-flying Chiefs, Ravens stingy defense ready for showdown - Dave Skretta

Andy Reid has always been considered an offensive-minded head coach, whether it’s because he played along the offensive line in college or tutored the likes of Brett Favre once he reached the NFL.

So his response wasn’t all that surprising this week when the Chiefs coach was asked who generally comes out on top when an potent offense goes up against a shutdown defense.

”This thing is based on a point system,” Reid said with a wry grin. “Pretty simple there.”

“They’ve got a lot of size up front, and on their defense overall, but it’s the same mentality,” Ware said. “We’re going to try to get in there and control the football.”

The Chiefs have won the yardage battle in all 12 games this season. They have lost two of three games in which they lost the turnover battle.