The degree of difficulty will be turned up a notch this weekend. Unlike in Miami, where the stadium was less than half-filled, old 76,000-seat Arrowhead Stadium will rock in a steady stream of red for the Chiefs’ home opener.
There will be festive, rowdy atmosphere filled with the smell of barbecue as Kansas City (2-0) plays a meaningful game at home for the first time since losing to the Patriots, 37-31, in the AFC championship game last season.
In the words of former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott, “can’t wait.”
“We’ll have our hands full but we’re looking forward to it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
More importantly for Baltimore fans, this game will answer a lot of questions about whether the Ravens are serious Super Bowl contenders. It appeared that they were after drubbing Miami, but their performance against Arizona raised some doubts.
If Murray can rip up the Ravens, what will Mahomes do? The reigning league Most Valuable Player has completed 55 of 77 passes for 821 yards and seven touchdowns this season while throwing to receivers like Sammy Watkins (15 catches, 247 yards, three touchdowns), Travis Kelce (10 catches, 195 yards, one TD) and Demarcus Robinson (seven catches, 172 yards, two TDs).
Plus, the Ravens had 10 penalties for 62 yards on Sunday, including getting flagged twice for having 12 players on the field. They were slow getting substitutions into the game and getting aligned on defense. They can’t beat Kansas City making those kinds of mistakes. Anything less than their "A" game probably adds up to defeat.
It’s different on the offensive side for the Ravens. Everything runs through Jackson, one of the NFL’s top playmakers. He can beat a team with his arm or his legs, even though his passes need to be more accurate.
The Ravens want to run the football successfully, and they did against Miami but failed against Arizona, with running backs Mark Ingram II, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill rushing for just 62 yards on 17 carries. Why? Because their offensive line isn’t good enough to go out and dominate.
If Ingram isn’t punishing defenses, the Ravens will unleash Jackson on option runs on the perimeter.
“I think we do a great job during the week of being prepared and just being super disciplined,” Andrews said. “We pride ourselves on being one of the most disciplined teams in the NFL week in and week out, especially on the offensive side of the ball. We have to be a little better in that area. We will.”
Meanwhile, Kansas City is better on defense than it was a year ago. The Chiefs fired coordinator Bob Sutton within 48 hours of their AFC championship game loss and replaced him with Steve Spagnuolo. They signed strong safety Tyrann Mathieu and traded with the New York Jets for linebacker Darron Lee and the Seattle Seahawks for pass rusher Frank Clark to complement a young group led by cornerbacks Rashad Fenton and safety Juan Thornhill.
Kansas City isn’t a dominant defensive team, but at least respectable. The Chiefs are allowing 18 points and 367.5 yards per game this season, including 262.5 through the air.
A year ago, the Ravens went into Arrowhead and lost to the Chiefs, 27-24, in overtime. In the end, the Ravens couldn’t stop Kansas City’s offense in crunch time as Mahomes finished with 377 passing yards.
A lot has changed since. The Chiefs have lost some top players on offense and defense, including star wide receiver Tyreek Hill. The Ravens have also said goodbye to some veterans, such as quarterback Joe Flacco, linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs and safety Eric Weddle.
But the Ravens have added some young talent and seem to have gotten better.