The summer walk-through of the Kansas City Chiefs’ NFL schedule continues today as we get to Week 5, a home date with the Baltimore Ravens on October 7. Please see links to the previous four games below. If the Chiefs’ offseason work and the return to health of key players are going to make a difference, this game is as good a test case as any.
Baltimore’s run defense was the second-best in the NFL last season and has been at an elite level for several years, as Kansas City fans with painful memories of the 2010 playoffs can attest. The Chiefs’ ranked in the middle of the league in rush average a year ago, but if the addition of offensive tackle Eric Winston via free agency and the return of Jamaal Charles to health is going to matter—and we would certainly expect that it would—than this is a game where Kansas City must deliver as many blows as it takes.
Furthermore, the Ravens’ defense is not the same unit that posted those lofty rankings. Terrell Suggs is out for the year at one linebacker spot. Ray Lewis is a year older at another. The same goes for free safety Ed Reed, a veteran with incomparable ball-hawking skills and the ability to create turnovers that alter the dynamics of close, low-scoring games like this one would presumably be. We don’t know if Baltimore has another run at the Super Bowl in them, but there’s every reason to think the franchise’s window closed last January in Foxboro, and that gives Kansas City every reason to think they can and should win this game on their home field.
But every coin has a flip side. The Chiefs will be coming off a divisional game against the San Diego Chargers, while Baltimore will be rested, having played the lowly Cleveland Browns the previous Thursday night. From the standpoint of physical rest and mental focus we would expect that any edge in this game would belong to Baltimore, unless you think playing a regular early-time slot kickoff after being in prime-time on three of the first four weeks will cause a letdown. But that’s stretching it.
I contend that Kansas City is on the upswing, while Baltimore’s downswing will kick in this year. We’ll have a good idea if that’s true by the time kickoff comes on October 7 and this game will then provide an on-field litmus test.
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