Ravens coach John Harbaugh talks about playing the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that has coaches he's familiar with.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce versus Ravens safeties Earl Thomas III and Tony Jefferson. Kelce might be the best at his position in the NFL. Since entering the league in 2013, he ranks first among all tight ends in yards after the catch (2,783) and has 420 career receptions for 5,431 yards and 33 touchdowns. He has 10 catches for 195 yards and one touchdown this season and is the primary target of quarterback Patrick Mahomes inside the red zone. The Ravens can’t cover him one-on-one with either Thomas or Jefferson, but they might opt to bracket him with one of those two and a linebacker. The Ravens will probably push, shove or hold up Kelce at the line of scrimmage to disrupt his timing with Mahomes. The Chiefs have some good receivers on the outside, but it’s Kelce and Mahomes who get them going in the passing game. In their first two games, the Ravens have had major breakdowns in the secondary, allowing big plays.
What’s at stake
This is a statement game for the Ravens. The Chiefs played in the AFC championship game last season and have most of their top players back, including Mahomes, the league MVP. The Ravens lost in the wild-card round last season and are probably one of the top five or six teams in the conference. But if they beat Kansas City, it will indicate that they are serious contenders and have a shot at a Super Bowl title. The Ravens are better than they were last year. They are younger, stronger and faster. But with so many young players on the roster, they have to prove that they are strong enough mentally to go into a place like Arrowhead Stadium in the Chiefs’ home opener and win. It’s a tough test, but the Ravens need one after opening the season against the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals, who have the worst defenses in the NFL.
What’s on the radar
Keep an eye on Kansas City offensive tackles Cam Erving and Mitchell Schwartz. Even though Erving is replacing injured Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher, he and Schwartz are certainly better than any tandem the Ravens have faced this season. The Ravens have six sacks in two games, but there are still questions about their pass rush and ability to pressure the quarterback. Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has talked about moving his linemen along the line of scrimmage more often to get better matchups, but he hasn’t done much of that this season. This is the week to do it and mix in some twists and blitzes.