The Baltimore Ravens are traveling to Arrowhead stadium for a matchup against the uber-talented Kansas City Chiefs. This is a much-anticipated matchup and will likely be the game everyone has their eyes on come Sunday at one o’clock.
One major thing that stands out about this game is that Kansas City’s defense is better than advertised. Chris Jones is a player who could wreck havoc across a weaker-than-normal Ravens interior offensive line. Matt Skura and Bradley Bozeman (assuming this remains the starting lineup) are going to need help blocking this mammoth of a man.
Everyone knows the name Travis Kelce, right? This guy needs to be maintained and monitored heavily throughout the game in order to come out on top. With that being said, let's look at five keys to the game.
1) Slow Down Chris Jones
The Chiefs certainly don’t have a reputation of having a good or frankly above average defense, but year in and year out they still field some quality players. Chris Jones is the next on this list. Jones has produced 11 pressures thus far this season. Some analysts have compared his style and level of play to Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams. He’s strong, quick and produces consistent pressures when given one-on-one opportunities. The benefit of playing the Chiefs in Week 3 is that the offense has tape on Jones’ tendencies and will hopefully be able to supply help to Bradley Bozeman and Matt Skura as needed.
Greg Roman will be able to contain Jones to an extent but players will have to do their jobs when called upon. Patrick Ricard should see the field early and often on not only the defensive side of the ball but also as a fullback. Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst will also have responsibilities in the game plan to block as needed.
2) Attack the left side of the offensive line
Many of you may have heard that Kansas City’s 2013 first-overall pick, Eric Fisher, will not play for the next four to six weeks due to core muscle surgery. Fisher hasn’t missed a game at left tackle up until this point and it certainly hurts the left side of the line for KC. Cameron Erving will start in his place. Don Martindale will most likely scheme in favor of the left side with the huge loss that the Chiefs have suffered. Pernell McPhee should have a field day creating pressure and pushing Patrick Mahomes out of the pocket leading to mistakes. Wink will give the defense every opportunity to attack the quarterback from his blindside.
If the Ravens are able to effectively penetrate the line of scrimmage, then it could be a repeat of last seasons matchup. The Ravens were able to confuse Mahomes and rush the quarterbacks decision making, which should again lead to success.
3) Contain Travis Kelce
If you are an active fantasy football manager, then you’ll know Travis Kelce’s abilities as the best tight end in the league. Kelce is an absolute freak of a tight end. He uses every aspect of his physicality to create separation and catch the ball with aggressiveness. The defense will have to designate extra support for anyone who covers Kelce throughout the game. The defense needs to force Travis outside the hash marks and deep down the field, as if they were playing Rob Gronkowski. Historically, the Ravens are torched by big, physical tight ends because they create a serious mismatch for any defense.
The Ravens have the necessary pieces to line up and be effective against experienced tight ends. Look for Baltimore to use multiple players and find someone to stick with Kelce for the remainder of the game. Shutting down Travis Kelce is a recipe for a victory.
4) Offense needs to own time of possession
Last season, Lamar and his offense were able to control the clock to make the game winnable. The Ravens will have to repeat this in order to strictly keep Patrick Mahomes’ offense off of the field. The longer the Ravens offense stays on the field, the less we see of the Chiefs’ ridiculous offense. Baltimore will certainly lean on the run game, but certainly the Ravens’ offense is going to come out swinging in the opening quarters. Lamar Jackson is out to prove to all of his doubters that this is the type of game he was made for. We will see his arm, his legs and his decision-making come into full swing against the only team he has a regular season loss against.
Mark Ingram will have a heavy dose of carries coming his way throughout the game in critical situations. Play action should be used effectively to make the Chiefs bite to create separation down the field. We may need to see a similar offensive attack to the one Baltimore deployed in the second half of last season come through on Sunday.
5) Boyle, Ricard, Hurst and Andrews must be effective blockers
All four players listed above are going to be heavily leaned upon to motion, swing and reach the second level to block adequately. As I mentioned above, Patrick Ricard will probably get the majority of these reps considering he’s a menace creating paths for Lamar and the running backs. Regardless of who is in the game, they need to do their job and follow through. The Chiefs will not go down without a fight, they are a Super Bowl contender and want this win as much as Baltimore does.
The Ravens offense needs to come out flying high through the air and around the line of scrimmage. The smaller, intricate aspects of the game will go a long way in a showdown of playoff hopefuls.