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Ravens vs. Chiefs: 5 players to watch

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night will feature the biggest game of the NFL regular season, thus far, as the Baltimore Ravens will take on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. They met once last season with the Chiefs winning 33-28. However, the Ravens are now a much-improved team. Since that matchup, they have added Marcus Peters, Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, L.J. Fort, Patrick Queen, Malik Harrison, J.K. Dobbins, and Devin Duvernay among others. Furthermore, the Ravens have gone 14-1 in regular season games since. Here are five players to watch:

Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram II, and J.K. Dobbins

The Chiefs run defense has been subpar. Through the first two games, they have allowed 301 total rushing yards, which is the sixth-most in the league. David Johnson averaged 7.0 yards per carry against them in Week 1, then Austin Ekeler averaged 5.8 yards per carry against them the following week.

Now, running the football is obviously a strength for the Ravens. They rushed for 230 yards against the Texans in their Week 2 victory. However, their division of carries is difficult to predict at this point. Gus Edwards led the way against the Texans with ten carries for 73 yards. Mark Ingram saw the most consistent workload between the two games with nine carries against the Texans and ten carries against the Browns. The rookie J.K. Dobbins is the biggest wildcard. He had seven carries for 22 yards and two touchdowns against the Browns, but he did not touch the football until the third quarter against the Texans and finished with only two carries.

Nevertheless, the Ravens have three talented running backs, which is a great problem to have, and they will need to rely on them on Monday night.

Matt Skura

Speaking of running the football, the Ravens offensive line is 13th in run block win rate. Nevertheless, it has not greatly effected their rushing production; the Ravens are fourth in the NFL in rushing yards. Still, the play of the offensive line is worth monitoring. Skura is coming back from tearing his ACL, MCL, and PCL and dislocating his kneecap, so it is natural if he is not playing at his highest level. Nevertheless, he is currently last among Baltimore’s offensive line starters in run block win rate.

His overall PFF grade has also dropped from 68.7 to 62.7. Additionally, it is hard to ignore backup center Patrick Mekari. Mekari filled in for Skura last season and did not allow a sack in 11 games.

Defensive tackle Chris Jones will certainly be a big test for Skura. Jones has 24.5 sacks over the past two years and started this season with a 1.5-sack game.

L.J. Fort

Fort has had an impressive start to the season. In fact, he is currently PFF’s highest-graded linebacker. He had six tackles and a forced fumble against the Browns. Then, he returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Texans.

Fort’s run defense, in particular, has stood out. Right now, he has a PFF run-defense grade of 92.2. Last Sunday, the Chargers were able to nearly pull off an upset victory over the Chiefs. That was in part due to their ability to slow down rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire; they held him to only 38 rushing yards on ten carries. Containing Edwards-Helaire would certainly increase Baltimore’s odds of winning on Monday night, Fort along with fellow linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison will be key to that.