Week three of the NFL season features some intriguing matchups top to bottom on the schedule. There is one that stands out as the best of the bunch and could be a preview of what’s to come in the AFC playoffs (perhaps even the AFC Championship).
That’s the showdown between the undefeated duo of the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (1pm ET Sunday).
The last time they met it took an overtime field goal in week 14 of the NFL season to give Kansas City their 11th victory (they finished 12-4) in its first 13 games. That was only after the Chiefs and Ravens battled for 60 minutes in what was the most competitive victory the Chiefs had all year. Up to that point, Kansas City had lost just twice, against the two teams that would go on to face each other in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots. Other than that, the Chiefs were undefeated and their wins weren’t exactly small with six of them coming by double-digits. That wasn’t the case when Baltimore came to town however.
On paper, this was set to be a fantastic QB duel with the league’s two most prolific rookies, Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes went on to win the MVP after having a record book type of season for the Chiefs. Jackson too played well, but in a backup role as Joe Flacco was still the guy in Baltimore. When the two QBs met the first time, it was one of the games Flacco missed. With Jackson under center, the Ravens played the Chiefs well, turning a 17-10 halftime deficit into a tied game after the third and then fourth quarters. Shot for shot, Jackson matched Mahomes almost until the very end. With just under two minutes left in overtime, Jackson was injured and backup Robert Griffin III couldn’t get the job done.
Many have wondered what would have happened if Jackson had been running that two minute offense, down just a field goal and closing in on being in Justin Tucker’s range. Unfortunately the injury prevented that chance, but now, these two will get to do it again. This time, the Ravens are firmly Jackson’s team and what he’s doing with them is reminiscent to how Mahomes led the Chiefs to historic success last year.
Entering this game, in the AFC, Jackson and Mahomes are and alternating 1A and 1B in most offensive categories. The two are nearly tied in completion percentage, at 71.9 and 71.4 respectively, numbers that are 2nd and 3rd best in the conference. Mahomes leads the AFC in passing yards, yards per game and is tied with Jackson for the lead in touchdowns with seven. Meanwhile, Jackson leads the AFC in QBR and rating, a pristine 145.2. That means between the two second year official players, they lead their conference in all but one key offensive metric.
While Jackson and Mahomes won’t physically be going head-to-head on Sunday, as that would be each team’s defensive job to try to stop these two prolific arms, it doesn’t change the excitement behind this matchup. Jackson could well be on his way to his own historic year as he leads the Ravens back to the playoffs and the very winnable AFC East crown. Mahomes will be looking to lead the Chiefs back to the playoffs and another chance finally to topple the Tom Brady dynasty in New England. Both men have something to play for and given how last year’s game ended, Jackson is certainly going to want to show that when the Ravens are down, he’s the go-to guy to get them the victory.
The Best Offense in Football But It’s Not Who You Think
If I told you this time last year that the Baltimore Ravens, who were good last year but certainly not great, would be the NFL’s top offense heading into week three of the season, you probably wouldn’t have believed it. Neither would I, because while Baltimore had been good under Flacco’s tenure, even winning a Super Bowl, that was the result of their defense. Now, under the phenom of Jackson, the Ravens lead all of football in total yards, yards per game (they are averaging over 540 per the first two games), total rushing yards, points and points per game (41 PPG).
That’s not to say that Baltimore’s defense is taking the year off however as that unit continues to remain strong and consistent as one of the Ravens’ best assets. Ranked second in total yards allowed and first in rushing yards allowed (41 total over the first two games), Baltimore’s defense has once again been great. It is just that this year they are joined by a QB and an offense that is also proving to be top notch.
In addition to what Jackson has provided with his arm, he has also provided with his legs, already rushing for 126 yards on 19 attempts. He is not the only one who has had great success running the ball this year. Ranked among the top 15 backs in total rushing yards and eighth in yards per carry, Mark Ingram is a perfect supplement to Jackson’s own rushing attack. While we are talking about leaders in yards per carry, Jackson is the only QB to be in the top-30 or so, and at that, he ranks third in the NFL. So the Ravens have both the 3rd and 8th best yards per carry runners. It certainly makes sense then why this has been one of the NFL’s best rushing teams. Jackson’s arm, which has contributed to seven touchdowns, no interceptions and ridiculous accuracy, explains why the passing game has been pretty dominant as well.
Our Preview’s Baltimore Ravens vs Kansas City Chiefs Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Despite Baltimore’s offense turning heads, the Chiefs enter this one as somewhat surprising six-point home favorites with the United States’ oddsmakers. While I’m not ready to guarantee a Ravens win on this one (though checking that moneyline could prove to be profitable), it feels safe to say that Kansas City won’t cover that spread. So these are the Baltimore Ravens vs Kansas City Chiefs predictions and picks for this preview:
- Bet on the Baltimore Ravens +6pts @ -115 with Bovada. The other bookies are at +5pts or +5.5pts.
- As far as the total points likely to be scored in this NFL matchup, it is generally set at an NFL-high 52.5 for the week. Even that doesn’t feel like it will be enough when these two teams meet in Arrowhead. Baltimore has a great rushing defense but an average passing defense. Mahomes will look to take advantage. No one has stopped Jackson from doing what he wants with a football this year. Look for the over on 51.5pts @ -115 with BetOnline. The other firms are 52pts or higher.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.