The best matchup of the season could be happening in Week 3
"Monday Night Football" could serve as a preview of the AFC Championship Game as the Baltimore Ravens host the Kansas City Chiefs. It's a matchup of two of the best quarterbacks in the league and could have massive implications for who will be home for this postseason matchup.
Baltimore has lost three straight in the series, including one matchup each of the last two seasons. Last year, Kansas City held serve at home in a 33-28 victory. Patrick Mahomes scorched them to the tune of 374 passing yards and three touchdowns, while Lamar Jackson accounted for 313 yards of offense. Mahomes surpassed that yardage total in a 27-24 overtime win over these Ravens in 2018.
Kansas City's 2-0 to start to the year featured a 34-20 win at home over Houston and a 23-20 overtime win in Los Angeles against the Chargers. Defensively, LA was up to the task, but the offense just didn't do enough. Mahomes led the team in rushing and passing in the win racking up 356 yards of total offense and led a comeback after falling behind 17-6 midway through the third quarter. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the signal-caller has won an NFL record six straight games when trailing by double digits, including the playoffs.
Baltimore's offense has been clicking through two weeks, with a 38-6 win over the Browns and a 33-16 victory over the Texans last week. Lamar Jackson is on point early this season with a 77.6 percent completion rate and four touchdowns passing to no interceptions. Hollywood Brown has been his favorite target with 143 receiving yards combined leading both contests. These dominant wins have been nothing new, as Ravens have had the lead in the fourth quarter of 12 of their last 14 regular-season games.
Football fans will be in for a treat with this game. Surprisingly, these two championship-level teams only appeared in one MNF game each last season. Kansas City beat the Chargers 24-17 in Mexico City in Week 11 last November, while the Ravens dominated the Rams 45-6 on the road the following Monday.
Monday Night Football: Kansas City at Baltimore
Kickoff: Monday, Sept. 28 at 8:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Ravens -3.5
Three Things to Watch
There will be no fans in the stands for this one, which takes away a massive advantage the Ravens would have — M&T Bank Stadium is one of the best home-field advantages in football. We've seen some teams fail to hold serve at home and struggle to generate their own energy with no one in the stands. This is the second straight road trip for Kansas City, and they host the Patriots next week, but I expect full 100 percent focus on a primetime matchup like this. This is Baltimore's second home game of the season, and they travel to Washington next week, so focus won't be an issue here either (not that it would have been an issue no matter who was next).
2. Try to run away with it
We know how important the quarterbacks are, but each team's run game must be on point if they hope to win. Last year, the Chiefs got over six yards per carry combined from Darrel Williams and LeSean McCoy, which was a huge help. Last week, Kansas City running backs had 15 carries for a combined 59 yards, which just won't do it. Clyde Edwards-Helaire was not able to get on track, and it put a little more pressure on the offensive line and Mahomes. On the other side, Baltimore's run game functions as a clock-killer and drive-mover. They actually out-rushed Kansas City 203-140 in the 2019 meeting and held the ball for over five more minutes, but it still wasn't enough. They have a nice rotation with Mark Ingram II, J.K. Dobbins, and Gus Edwards so rotating them and keeping guys fresh will be key. I still think winning the time of possession will be a huge help.
3. Secondary help
Each of these teams has small injury issues in their secondary, although it's not necessarily with their best cornerback. Unfortunately for Baltimore, Tavon Young is done for the season after another ACL injury. He was a very nice piece to have at corner to supplement Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith. Unfortunately, they have to go deeper in the depth chart, which isn't great against a Chiefs offense that has a ton of weapons. On the other side, Chavarius Ward returned to practice on Thursday, and he's a key piece to a secondary that needs all hands on deck. Last year, Kansas City was able to hold Marquise Brown to two catches on nine targets.
This game is going to live up to its potential. It really does hurt that the Ravens don't have fans in the stands because now there will be little-to-no home-field advantage. Still, I think Baltimore is playing the best football in the league right now. That will continue in a highlight-filled MNF affair.
Prediction: Ravens 31, Chiefs 27
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.