The Baltimore Ravens must shake off a loss to the Raiders and prepare for another battle with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night. Kansas City has beaten the Ravens three seasons in a row and each time the margin of victory has grown as has the performance gap between Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens
Sunday, September 19, 2021 – 08:20 PM EDT at M&T Bank Stadium
The Chiefs are a 3.5-point road favorite at many of the top sportsbooks. Kansas City has won nine of Mahomes’ last 11 starts by fewer than seven points, so things have often been tight, including Week 1’s 33-29 fourth-quarter comeback win over Cleveland. For this to actually turn into a rivalry, the Ravens are going to have to win a game.
Why Does Baltimore Keep Losing to Kansas City?
If the Ravens are going to emerge as the top threat to the Chiefs for control of the AFC, they will have to start showing up with a better passing game and different defensive ideas in these matchups.
Baltimore’s best shot at the Chiefs came in Arrowhead in December 2018. Even though that was the day Mahomes showed off his no-look pass, Baltimore defended him well and led 24-17 in the final minutes. But on a fourth-and-9, Mahomes pulled a magic trick and found Tyreek Hill for a 48-yard bomb, setting up a game-tying touchdown before the Chiefs won 27-24 in overtime.
In the 2019 rematch, Mahomes was missing Hill and his left tackle (Eric Fisher), but he roasted Baltimore’s aggressive defense with 23 points and 273 passing yards in the first half alone. Meanwhile, Jackson was pressing the whole game and the Ravens failed on three two-point conversions in a 33-28 loss that was not as close as the final suggests.
With the venue switching to Baltimore last season, Mahomes still came out on fire with four touchdowns before halftime. He finished with 411 total yards, no sacks, and five total touchdowns. Jackson completed 15-of-28 passes for just 97 yards while taking four sacks and losing one of his two fumbles. Not even a kick return touchdown helped as Baltimore’s offense only scored 13 points in the 34-20 loss.
In 2018, Jackson tied his season-high with seven bad throws (inaccurate passes excluding throwaways and spikes) against the Chiefs according to Pro Football Reference.
- In 2019, Jackson had a career-high 16 bad throws in Kansas City during his MVP season.
- In 2020, Jackson was held under 100 passing yards for the only time in his career (so far) against the Chiefs, but his receivers did have five dropped passes.
Jackson simply presses and fails to keep up in matching Mahomes as he is not used to having to throw so much to win a game. Jackson has never been known for his passing volume, but he is usually efficient in that department. But against the Chiefs, he only completes 52.6% of his passes and averaged a woeful 5.4 yards per attempt. Meanwhile, Mahomes completes 70.5% of his passes, averages 378.7 yards per game, and 8.6 yards per attempt against Baltimore’s blitz-happy defense.
Mahomes faced a season-high 20 blitzes from the Ravens in 2020, a season-high 17 blitzes from the Ravens in 2019, and a season-high 23 blitzes from the Ravens in 2018 according to data at Pro Football Reference.
Defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale needs to take a page from Tampa Bay’s book in Super Bowl LV and do something different this time. Blitz less and play two-high safeties in coverage to take away the big plays that Mahomes has feasted on against this defense. Make them patiently drive the ball down the field and hope for some penalties, drops, or a fumble.
But with corner Marcus Peters (ACL) out and the way the Ravens struggled to pressure Derek Carr and cover tight end Darren Waller on Monday night, this could be another huge game for Mahomes, Hill, and Travis Kelce. Even Mecole Hardman could get in on the action this week as he had touchdown catches of 83 and 49 yards against the Ravens in the last two seasons.
As much as it makes sense to label this the next great rivalry in the NFL, it just hasn’t been one yet and the gap in quarterback play has been the biggest reason for that through three games. But this is another golden opportunity for Jackson to turn things around in prime time.
Since 2018 with Jackson at quarterback, the Ravens are 26-7 (.788) when rushing for more than 150 yards, but that includes an 0-3 record against the Chiefs. The running game will be fine for Baltimore. It’s the passing game that is the problem and running back Ty’Son Williams and tackles Alejandro Villaneuva will have to be much better in pass protection than they were on Monday night in Las Vegas. Kansas City should also get Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark back on defense after both missed Week 1. That is a big boost after the defense struggled without them.
Mahomes is 21-4 on the road and the Chiefs averaged more points per game in the four losses (38.5) than they did in the 21 wins (31.9). Mahomes is also 16-8-1 ATS on the road. Kansas City has won 11 straight road games. One more win would give the Chiefs the third-longest road-winning streak in NFL history. The Chiefs always understand the assignment against Baltimore. Until the Ravens show they can adapt their style to account for the challenge Kansas City brings, I see no reason to bet against Mahomes in this matchup. I like the Chiefs to cover for your NFL picks this week.
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