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Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Previewing a Week 3 matchup between two explosive quarterbacks

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The Ravens travel to Kansas City for a showdown of two of the most explosive young quarterbacks in the NFL. Both teams come in 2-0 with two resounding wins under their belts. Last season, Ravens-Chiefs proved to be one of the best games of the season as the Chiefs prevailed 27-24 in overtime.

In the 2018 contest, both Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes had good performances as Jackson doubled his career passing touchdowns and Mahomes tossed for 377 yards.

Both teams lost their most effective rushers as Kenneth Dixon and Spencer Ware no longer play for the Ravens and Chiefs, respectively.

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Looking at the 2019 version of Ravens-Chiefs, a handful of dynamics have changed. As of now, the Ravens’ offense looks fierce as they have piled on an NFL-high number of points and yards through two weeks. While the competition was two of the worst teams in the NFL, the offense clicked and was effective in the red zone and on third down. Jackson looks like a legitimate threat in the pocket while being his usual self outside the pocket. The running game was bolstered with the pick up of Mark Ingram, and the Ravens have been dominant on the ground through two weeks. Defensively speaking, the Ravens did lose depth at pass rusher and C.J. Mosley, but they improved in the secondary by replacing Eric Weddle with Earl Thomas. For now, the defense looks good from back-to-front, but Patrick Mahomes will likely make the defense look pedestrian at best on Sunday.

For the Chiefs, the major additions came on the offensive side of the ball. They have added to their traditionally strong backfields with LeSean McCoy and rookie Darwin Thompson, and rookie receiver Mecole Hardman has been a star in two games. The Chiefs have pumped 68 points into the Jaguars and Raiders, and they are poised for yet another explosive performance. Defensively, the Chiefs replaced defensive coordinator Bob Sutton with Steve Spagnuolo. While Spagnuolo is not the best coordinator in the NFL by any stretch, he is a colossal upgrade over Sutton. The Chiefs also brought in Tyrann Mathieu as a do-it-all defensive back, and they replaced Dee Ford with Frank Clark. The Kansas City defense has their moments, and they routinely force turnovers, but the Ravens should be able to move the ball in chunks whether they throw the ball or run the ball.

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Quarterbacks:

Patrick Mahomes is better than Lamar Jackson. With that said, Jackson has an enticing matchup against slow linebackers and a spotty secondary. Mahomes will have his usual 300 yards and multiple touchdowns regardless of the defense on the other sideline, but Jackson could put up a phenomenal game either through the air or on the ground. It would not be shocking if Jackson was able to nearly match Mahomes’ yardage output based solely on the anemic Chiefs defense. Both quarterbacks should have massive performances and should continue to stake their claim for early season MVP.

Big-Play Wide Receivers:

Marquise Brown and Mecole Hardman have burst onto the scene as tremendous deep threats. Brown has an absurd 233 yards on 12 catches with a pair of lengthy touchdowns factored in. Hardman only had 61 yards against the Raiders, but he was found for a 40-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Both players are likely to push 100 yards if given the targets, although Brown occupies a larger role in the Baltimore offense. Brown and Hardman offer obscene speed and ability to create with the ball in their hands, so they will likely draw extra eyes, opening up the offense for …

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Tight Ends:

Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce have been the two best tight ends in the season. Andrews has a pair of eight-catch, 100-yard, one-touchdown games while Kelce has posted 19.5 yards per catch. Andrews draws the easier matchup as the Chiefs have been gashed by tight ends through two weeks, allowing 14 catches to Jacksonville’s pair and Darren Waller of the Raiders. The Ravens have only allowed four completions to opposing tight ends and were able to keep a tight lid on Mike Gesicki of the Dolphins in Week 1. Kelce should still feature in the Chiefs offense, but the presence of Earl Thomas could dampen Kelce’s impact on the game. Andrews will likely receive 10 targets, and he is a decent bet to get 100 yards and another touchdown, especially against the softback seven of the Chiefs.

In the Trenches:

The Chiefs have the best offensive lineman (Mitchell Schwartz) and the best defensive lineman (Chris Jones). The Ravens make up for the disparity with lots of useful pieces on the O- and D-lines. When you factor in the effectiveness of Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst, and Patrick Ricard (on both sides of the ball), the Ravens neutralize the star power advantage. Both teams will lean on the blitz to force the opposing quarterback into bad situations and longer conversion opportunities. Kansas City is more likely to get home with a four-man rush, but the Ravens should blitz enough to compensate for Chris Jones or Dee Ford’s production. The X-factor in the trenches is Ravens pass rusher Matt Judon. Judon only recorded one sack in last year’s meeting, but he harassed Mitchell Schwartz for most of the afternoon. If Judon can bring Mahomes down on more than one snap, the Ravens dramatically increase their likelihood of leaving Arrowhead with a victory in tow.

Verdict:

I anticipate that both offenses will hum. Jackson and Mahomes will likely post over 350 yards of total offense, and both rushing games should provide support to the quarterbacks. Hollywood Brown and Mecole Hardman will stretch the field deep, leaving space for Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce underneath. The game will likely come down to a clutch kick from Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker. I trust Tucker more than Butker, so I think the Ravens will win in the final moments.

Predictions:

Winner: Whoever has the ball last
Score: Ravens 36, Chiefs 33
Spread pick: Ravens (+6.5)
Over/Under: Over 54 points

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