In early November, Chiefs fans may have looked at the team’s schedule and thought this weekend’s game against Baltimore was shaping up to be one of the easier games down the stretch.
After Week 10, the Ravens had lost four of their last five and had a 4-5 record. However, Baltimore will take a three-game winning streak into Sunday’s meeting with the Chiefs.
Baltimore currently has the sixth spot in the six-team AFC playoff field and is just a half-game behind the Steelers for the AFC North lead. Meanwhile, the Chiefs can clinch a playoff berth with a win Sunday.
Each week, I take an early look at the Chiefs’ next opponent, and here are five things to know about the Ravens ahead of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium, which kicks off at noon and will be broadcast on CBS (Ch. 5):
1. Who’s at quarterback?
Rookie Lamar Jackson has been quarterback during the Ravens’ three-game winning streak.
Longtime Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been out since Nov. 4 because of a hip injury, but he returned to practice last Thursday. Still, Flacco didn’t play in Baltimore’s 26-16 win at Atlanta on Sunday.
In his place, Jackson has completed 39 of 65 passes for 453 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. But he’s also rushed for 265 yards in 54 attempts and two touchdowns in those games.
That includes this touchdown Sunday against the Falcons:
Jackson left Sunday’s game briefly after being kicked in the head, and former Baylor star Robert Griffin III filled in and completed two of four passes. But Jackson returned and was fine after the game.
2. Running attack
John Eisenberg, who writes for the Ravens’ site, said Baltimore appears to be set at running back with Gus Edwards starting and getting the bulk of the work.
Edwards has run for 315 yards in 61 carries (5.2 yards per rush) during the Ravens’ last three games.
But Kenneth Dixon, who returned Sunday after a knee injury in the season opener, and Ty Montgomery will also will run the ball.
The Ravens are seventh in the NFL in rushing (129.2 yards per game).
3. The defense
Have you heard this before? Baltimore has a sensational defense.
The Ravens lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game (281.7) and points per game (17.8). They allow the second-fewest passing yards (194.4) and third-fewest rushing yards (77.3) per game.
That means it will be the top-ranked offense vs. the top-ranked defense, because the Chiefs lead the NFL by averaging 37.0 points per game
The Ravens’ defense held the Falcons to 131 yards on 10 possessions on Sunday. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan entered the game as the NFL’s leader in passing yards, but the Falcons’ only touchdown came on a defensive score.
Atlanta ran the ball 15 times and gained a mere 34 yards against Baltimore.
“It was great to see the way the defense responded,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said on the team’s website. “I think it’s a testament to those players, those coaches. This is one of the most prolific offenses in football. You can’t say it’s not.”
Baltimore also had a defensive score against the Falcons:
4. Turnover troubles
The Ravens have scored two defensive touchdowns this season and Cyrus Jones has returned a punt for a score.
But Baltimore is minus-6 in turnover margin, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. They’re 30th in takeaways with nine. They’re tied for 29th with just five interceptions on the season.
5. An “awesome weapon”
Kicker Justin Tucker made all four of his attempts in Sunday’s win at Atlanta. He has missed just two of 27 field-goal attempts this season and is perfect from inside 40 yards (13 of 13). Tucker has made 28 of his 29 extra-point attempts.
“Awesome weapon,” Jackson told the Baltimore Sun. “Greatest kicker in the game right now, man. Greatest kicker that I’ve seen. He’s the best.”