The Ravens come in off a well deserved nine-day break after defeating the Cleveland Browns two Thursdays ago. The Ravens weren’t particularly sharp, but they became the second team since 1950 to win a Thursday night game the same week after playing a Sunday night game. The Ravens were also the first team to play four games in 18 days since the 1939 Brooklyn Dodgers football team, so despite the lackluster effort against the Browns, the Ravens have earned their 3-1 start.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, come off a throttling at home to the hands of the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs have had a propensity to get off to terrible starts as they have been outscored by 74 points in the first three quarters of their games. Kansas City is second-worst in the NFL in allowing 34 points a game and their 15 turnovers are the most in the NFL.
Maybe more concerning for the Chiefs is the play of quarterback Matt Cassel. Since his breakout 2010 campaign, Cassel has been a turnover machine. He had 27 touchdowns and only eight turnovers in 2010, but this season he has regressed to five touchdowns and 10 turnovers. At least two of those touchdowns have come late in garbage time with the Chiefs well out of the game.
That lackluster play is music to the Ravens’ defense ears as the unit is still looking to round into form. The Ravens are giving up 390.3 yards per game with 295 of those yards coming through the air. Both those stats are the Ravens’ franchise worst through four games. With the 29th ranked pass defense, playing the turnover-prone Chiefs and Cassel should be the tonic to get things turned around for the Baltimore defense.
The Ravens’ defense will have to stop the Chiefs’ top-rated rushing offense. Jamaal Charles has had a solid start to the season, coming off a torn ACL early last season. The Ravens will almost assuredly focus on Charles and the rushing game and make Cassel beat them. If they can contain Charles, the Chiefs should self-destruct in an effort to stay in the game.
The Ravens’ offense comes in off a mediocre effort in which Joe Flacco was sacked four times and Ray Rice had his worst game of the season. Perhaps some of the lack of offensive sharpness came from playing so many games in a short period of time. Rice again had under 20 carries, and with the Chiefs’ worst aspect of their defense being their run defense (ranked 20th), expect a big day from Rice. That is if Cam Cameron gives Rice 20 carries, which has not been a recurring trend for some reason.
Despite the lack of carries for Rice and the effort against the Browns, the Ravens still boast the second-ranked offense in the league and are fifth in points-per-game with just over 30 points-per-game. Flacco is averaging over 300 yards passing and Torrey Smith appears to be coming into his own. Look for the Ravens’ offense to come out aggressive, especially considering the Chiefs’ woes in the first three quarters. If the Ravens can jump out to an early lead, look for Rice to get going and the Chiefs to start turning the ball over.
The Chiefs are 0-2 at home and the home-field advantage of Arrowhead Stadium seems to be a thing of the past. If the Chiefs can stay close early in the game, this could be a good game. However, the Ravens have more firepower on both sides of the ball and if the game gets away from the Chiefs by halftime, look for a Ravens route. 34-17 sounds like a probable outcome, or a 10-point Ravens victory at the worst seems to be expected.