After a nail-biter of a Week 1 game against the Cleveland Browns, the Kansas City Chiefs are looking ahead to a Sunday night matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs’ defense was without Tyrann Mathieu, Frank Clark, and Willie Gay in Week 1, but now they will get Mathieu, and potentially Clark, back this week.
The key to a Week 2 win will be the play of the Chiefs’ defense, and they should be able to run wild against this depleted Ravens team. With the season-ending injuries of J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and Justice Hill before the opening kickoff, the Ravens have one of the most depleted backfields in the league, leaving Lamar Jackson without experienced blockers in the backfield. And the Ravens could potentially lose starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley this week, who has been recovering from ankle surgery he underwent during the offseason. While he played in Week 1, he seems to have re-aggravated the injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season.
Lamar Jackson was hurried time and again on Monday against Las Vegas Raiders edge rushers Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue. The Raiders defense was able to get home for three sacks while also causing plays to break down early, leaving Jackson with no other option than to improvise, resulting in two lost fumbles. According to Next Gen Stats, the Raiders pressured Lamar Jackson on 54.5% of his dropbacks (18 pressures on 33 dropbacks), their highest team pressure in a game since 2016.
This bodes well for the Chiefs’ defense. Kansas City was able to get home against the Browns, sacking Baker Mayfield twice and pressuring him to force the game-sealing interception.
This Sunday, the Ravens are now tasked with using a makeshift O-line, with Alejandro Villanueva shifting from right to left tackle and guard Patrick Mekari shifting out to right tackle. Last season, the Chiefs were able to get home on Jackson for four sacks and cause a fumble against a healthy Ravens offensive line featuring current Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. Given that this offensive line, and this team in general, is banged up, the Chiefs should be able to create havoc for Lamar Jackson.
The Chiefs should do what they can to disrupt Jackson and use different schemes to confuse and disrupt this makeshift O-line. Getting Mathieu back this week means this team can take more risks with linebackers and defensive linemen using stunts and different rushes, knowing that they have security on the back end of the play with Mathieu healthy and lurking.
In his first three matchups against Kansas City, Jackson has averaged 170 passing yards and one touchdown per game, which has been a deciding factor in his 0-3 record against the Chiefs. Given the health issues in Baltimore, the offensive workload rests that much more on Jackson’s shoulders, meaning he will be rushing and passing more often. We’re only one week into the season, and Jackson is already on pace for 510 passing attempts, which would shatter his career-high of 401.
With the injuries surrounding him forcing Jackson to throw more frequently to keep the Ravens in games, we should expect his interceptions to trend upward and his accuracy to trend downward.
The Chiefs’ defense is looking for a game to galvanize them and prove they are among the league’s best; this Ravens matchup is precisely what they want. Even though the game is being played in Baltimore, we can expect the defense to show up and make plays. Lamar is a former MVP and one of the most dynamic players the NFL has ever seen, but he is also behind a weaker offensive line and is without playmakers on both sides of the ball. Given the circumstances, we should expect to see a merely human Lamar Jackson on Sunday night, and the Chiefs’ defense will look to take full advantage.