Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice has been one of the best in the National Football League for the last few seasons. In addition to being a great rusher, he’s one of the best receiving backs and a frequent target of quarterback Joe Flacco. While the Kansas City Chiefs defense has played poorly overall, they’ve done an alright job of containing running backs so far with the exception of Buffalo Bills back C.J. Spiller. Rice is better than Spiller, Jackie Battle, Michael Turner, or any of the New Orleans Saints three-headed running back monster, however, and the defensive line will really need to plug up the middle to have a chance on Sunday.
Rice only has one 100 yard rushing game so far this year, but he’s recorded at least 45 receiving yards in 3 of his 4 outings. Flacco’s improved play means that the Chiefs struggling pass defense will have to be on guard as well, as the receiving corps of Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin could have a huge game. The team ranks 12th in passing yards against right now, but Kansas City has basically been playing from behind the entire season so the stats are skewed.
The two players most important to limiting Rice on Sunday are surprising defensive lineman Ropati Pitouitua and star middle linebacker Derrick Johnson. Pitouitua, at 6’8″, 315 lbs, has a huge frame that can clog up space in the middle and do the job that Dontari Poe has failed to do thus far. Johnson, a well-known run-stopper, needs to keep a close, almost spy-like approach on Rice and hope that Justin Houston and Tamba Hali can pressure Falco on passing downs.
I’m not expecting the Chiefs to win this game, but the defense is improving and was mostly put into bad situations by the offense in last Sunday’s loss to the San Diego Chargers.