The Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens are set for a prime time Monday Night Football matchup. These two teams are very evenly matched and also overwhelming favorites to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LV, but only one team can stand at the end of the year.
The Ravens finished the 2019 season on a 12-game winning streak, which gave them the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. Unfortunately for Baltimore, they were unable to pick up a win when they got to the playoffs despite having home-field advantage. They were trampled by a red-hot running back named Derrick Henry and lost 28-12 to the Tennessee Titans in the Divisional Round. A disappointing end to a fantastic regular season.
Last year, it was the Chiefs who survived and advanced all the way through the AFC playoffs. They fell behind by at least 10 points in each playoff game before mounting incredible comebacks and ended up on top of the world as Super Bowl LIV champions.
These two teams are familiar with one another. They have met in the regular season the last two years and each game wasn’t decided until the closing seconds. In 2018, there were some memorable moments on both sides of the ball for Kansas City. Chris Jones’ second-quarter sack of Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson gave him a sack in his 10th consecutive game. There were numerous incredible plays made by Chiefs’ quarterback and 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, including the now-infamous “no-look” pass.
The Chiefs’ defense held Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to 147 yards passing but still needed late-game heroics from Mahomes to complete a comeback victory. The key play being a 4th-and-9 conversion to Tyreek Hill with 1:29 left in regulation.
An overtime field goal from the best kicker in the NFL, Harrison Butker, won the game for Kansas City.
In their 2019 matchup, the Chiefs took control early, but the Ravens kept pounding away at the Chiefs' front line with their rushing attack. Baltimore ended up rushing for over 200 yards as a team, but it wasn’t enough. The Chiefs’ defense held the 2019 League MVP to his only game of the season without a touchdown pass. The Chiefs’ offense was without Tyreek Hill due to an injury, but Mahomes still threw for 374 yards and three touchdowns, including a beautiful strike to Mecole Hardman.
The Ravens made a valiant effort to come back in the fourth quarter but came up just short in their attempt. Incredibly, Lamar Jackson is 20-1 vs the rest of the league as a starter in the regular season, but 0-2 against the Chiefs. Will Kansas City be able to contain Jackson just enough to get the job done again?
It will be a tough task for the Chiefs’ defense to hold Jackson in the same ways they have in the previous two meetings. The rushing attack, along with his improved passing game, will be difficult to contain, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will be up for the challenge.
I could copy and paste my article from last Saturday regarding the Chiefs’ offense and their need to get into a rhythm early, but that story has already been written and shouldn’t need to be repeated. Mahomes and company know the slow start last week against the Chargers put them in a hole, and they were lucky to get out of it. Another slow start against the Ravens likely wouldn’t end with a Chiefs win.
While many talking heads will be discussing the battle between these two young MVP quarterbacks, and deservedly so, there is another battle that could decide the outcome: the kicking game. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker and Ravens kicker Justin Tucker are the two best kickers in the NFL. With how close these two teams match up, it could come down to a field goal just like in the 2018 game. Whoever has the ball last may end up the winner in this one.
While both of these teams have aspirations for a Super Bowl run, and they are the heavy favorites to get there from the AFC, the winner of this matchup will hold the edge for home-field advantage. No one should discount the playoff format change that was put into place this past offseason in which only one team, the top seed, in the AFC and NFC will receive a first-round bye. Despite being the third game of the season, it’s not too early to say the stakes are high and playoff implications are on the line this Monday in Baltimore.