Scouting report for Sunday's Ravens-Chiefs game

RAVENS PASSING GAME: Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson took a step back as a passer last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, completing 12 of 21 attempts for 125 yards. Wide receivers Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead IV and John Brown combined for just four catches on 11 targets. Jackson has especially struggled to find an on-field rapport with Brown, who was the team’s top receiving threat through the first half of the season. Rookie tight end Mark Andrews, on the other hand, has thrived with Jackson, catching four passes for 121 yards over the last two weeks. Ty Montgomery has become the featured receiver out of the backfield, with eight catches over the last two games. On the offensive line, rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has thrived as a pass blocker in his six starts, creating an effective partnership with left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

CHIEFS PASSING GAME: Patrick Mahomes is the most exciting young passer in the league, drawing comparisons to Brett Favre with his arm strength and improvisational skills. He’s on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and ranks second in the league at 9.1 yards per attempt. He throws to two of the most dangerous downfield targets in the league in wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce. The Chiefs rank fourth in the league in third-down conversion percentage and fourth in red-zone scoring percentage.

EDGE: Chiefs

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RAVENS RUNNING GAME: The Ravens have rushed for at least 200 yards in each of Jackson’s starts, a remarkable turnaround for a team that struggled on the ground early in the season. Jackson and running back Gus Edwards have carried most of the load, combining for 580 yards in that three-game stretch. But running back Kenneth Dixon was also effective against the Falcons in his first game back from injured reserve, carrying eight times for 37 yards. With their run-heavy attack, the Ravens have controlled the ball for an average of more than 37 minutes in Jackson’s starts. On the downside, he put the ball on the ground three times against the Falcons, and they returned one of those for a touchdown.

CHIEFS RUNNING GAME: The Chiefs cut their best running back, Kareem Hunt, when TMZ released a video of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman. Kansas City still rushed for 174 yards last Sunday against a weak Oakland Raiders defense, led by Mahomes with 52 yards. They often use Hill as a runner a few times a game. They average 4.9 yards per attempt overall, fifth-best in the league.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS RUSH DEFENSE: The Falcons hardly tried to run on the formidable Ravens front, gaining just 34 yards on 15 attempts. Defensive tackle Brandon Williams played his best game of the season against Atlanta. Fellow defensive tackle Michael Pierce and linebacker C.J. Mosley also made tackles for loss in the road victory. The Ravens allow the third-fewest yards per game and the sixth-fewest yards per carry in the league. Their last three opponents have combined for just 149 rushing yards.

CHIEFS RUSH DEFENSE: The Chiefs rank 22nd in the league in total rushing defense and allow 5.1 yards per attempt. Eight of their 12 opponents have run for at least 100 yards, and the Oakland Raiders gained 171 on the ground last Sunday. Linebackers Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens have played poorly against the run.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS PASS DEFENSE: The Ravens played perhaps their best coverage game of the season against the high-powered Falcons, holding quarterback Matt Ryan to a season-low 131 passing yards and Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones to two catches for 18 yards on eight targets. Cornerback Jimmy Smith has rounded into form after missing the first four games of the season due to suspension, and his outside partner, Marlon Humphrey, has graded as one of the top 10 cornerbacks in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. A groin injury that kept Humphrey out of practice on Wednesday created some uncertainty for the Chiefs game. Linebacker Terrell Suggs also stood out against the Falcons with two tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. The Ravens allow the fewest passing yards per attempt of any defense in the league.

CHIEFS PASS DEFENSE: The Chiefs allow the most passing yards of any team in the league, though some of that is because their opponents are often playing from behind. They’re better at efficiency, holding opposing quarterbacks to 6.5 yards per pass attempt. Cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Kendall Fuller have both played well in coverage. Outside linebackers Dee Ford and Justin Houston and defensive end Chris Jones are dangerous pass rushers. The Chiefs are weaker in the middle of the field, where their linebackers and safeties have been mediocre at best in coverage.

EDGE: Ravens

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RAVENS SPECIAL TEAMS: Justin Tucker played a leading role in the victory over the Falcons, making all four of his field-goal attempts including three from beyond 40 yards. Tucker has made 25 of 27 field-goal attempts on the season, with his only misses coming on blocks. Sam Koch is tied for sixth in the league with 23 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Cyrus Jones has averaged 13.4 yards on 14 punt returns, with no mishandles and a 70-yard touchdown in Week 12.

CHIEFS SPECIAL TEAMS: The Chiefs excel in every area of special teams, ranking first in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings. Harrison Butker has made 19 of 20 field-goal attempts, though he has missed four extra-point attempts. Dustin Colquitt does not get to punt often, given his team’s offensive efficiency, but he ranks fourth in the league with a 41.9-yard net average. Hill is one of the league’s deadliest punt returners, with an 11.6-yard average and a 91-yard touchdown return this season. Tremon Smith is just as good on kickoffs, with a 27.9-yard average and a long return of 97 yards.

EDGE: Chiefs

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RAVENS INTANGIBLES: A month ago, the Ravens entered their bye week 4-5, facing great uncertainty at quarterback and hearing reports that coach John Harbaugh was on the hot seat. They’ve won three straight since then and would make the playoffs if the season ended today. They’ve even pulled within a half-game of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North. The Ravens have created a fresh identity with their ball-control offense and rejuvenated defense. They feel they could not catch the Chiefs at a better time.

CHIEFS INTANGIBLES: The Chiefs have hit a difficult patch in an otherwise spectacular season. They had to release one of their best young players in Hunt and faced uncomfortable scrutiny for their handling of the allegations against him. Last Sunday, they struggled to put away the pitiful Oakland Raiders. Recent difficulties aside, the Chiefs remain a confident team led by one of the best offensive minds in NFL history in Andy Reid. They’re also undefeated at home this season.

EDGE: Ravens

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PREDICTION: The Ravens will move the ball on a so-so Chiefs defense, but will they be able to finish enough drives in the end zone to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and Co.? Even if the Lamar Jackson-led offense dominates time of possession again, the Chiefs don’t need many minutes to pile up points. Expect the Ravens to fall one score short on the road in a 31-26 loss.

childs.walker@baltsun.com

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