Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun
Although the Ravens' offense is ranked second in the NFL in total offense with 424 yards per contest and fifth in scoring offense with a 30.3 average, they've actually overcome a series of slow starts this season. The Ravens have been outscored 20-17 in the first quarter, outscoring opponents, 121-83, through four games. The second quarter and third quarter have been the Ravens' most effective quarters with margins of 40-24 and 38-23, respectively. The Chiefs appear vulnerable early in football games, failing to match the tempo of quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers. The Chiefs haven't led in a game all season with their lone win coming in a 27-24 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints. In the first quarter, the Chiefs have been outscored, 41-6. And halftime adjustments haven't fared well for the Chiefs, either. They've been outscored 42-17 in the third quarter. The only advantage the Chiefs have in scoring has been in the fourth quarter where they've built an edge of 39-16 in scoring margin. The Ravens can definitely try out their deep passing game where they lead the NFL with 24 completions of 20 yards or higher.
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The former Notre Dame standout could be called to step under center if Matt Cassel continues to falter. It's been an embarrassing display by Cassel so far. Cassel leads the NFL with 10 turnovers, including seven interceptions and three lost fumbles. He has already been sacked 13 times. Cassel could be in major trouble against Ravens free safety Ed Reed, who has a penchant for baiting weak quarterbacks into miscues. Cassel struggled in a 30-7 AFC wild-card loss to Baltimore two seasons ago. He completed only 9 of 18 passes for 70 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions, getting picked off once apiece by safeties Dawan Landry and Haruki Nakamura and once by cornerback Josh Wilson. All of those players are gone from the roster, but the Ravens have four interceptions with Reed leading the defense with two picks and seven pass deflections. The Ravens have held opposing quarterbacks to a 78.4 passer rating this season, allowing just two touchdown passes and an average of 7.7 yards per passing attempt. The Chiefs do have a dangerous downfield threat in wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, an imposing target at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds who leads his team with 25 receptions for 342 yards and three touchdowns. Shutdown cornerback Lardarius Webb will draw this tough assignment. The Ravens rank 29th in pass defense. If the Chiefs are able to go after cornerbacks Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith, they obviously will.
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As the Ravens attempt to jump out to a 4-1 record for the third consecutive year, they face a reeling Kansas City Chiefs team trying to avoid falling into a 1-4 hole after being outscored, 136-88, during the first four games. Here's a checklist of things to keep an eye on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. -- Aaron Wilson