A Monday night home game brings national spotlight, potential distractions and the height of anticipation for the Baltimore Ravens.
The 2-0 Ravens circled the Week 3 "Monday Night Football" game on the schedule in April, knowing it would give them a chance to measure up against Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Baltimore buried its first two opponents -- the Cleveland Browns and Houston Texans -- setting the stage for another showdown with Mahomes. The Ravens are 16-3 since the start of the 2019 regular season. They've won 14 consecutive regular-season games.
But they're 0-2 against Mahomes and the Chiefs with losses each of the past two seasons by a grand total of eight points, including 33-28 in Week 3 last season.
"He's got all these tools and has all this talent around him," Ravens All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey said of facing Mahomes. "As good as he is in the pocket, he's just as good if not better outside the pocket. Preparing for him is really tough. He's never out of the game."
Reigning MVP Lamar Jackson laments not getting his shot at Mahomes in the AFC playoffs last season. The Ravens lost to the Titans, and the Chiefs took down Tennessee in the conference championship game. After Jackson's offensive line underwent changes in the offseason, early returns are beyond positive.
Kansas City survived a white-knuckle Week 2 scare at the hands of the Chargers, beating Los Angeles on a Harrison Butker 58-yard field goal in OT. The Chiefs get the idea that every team will place a bull's-eye on this team.
"It's definitely the team that we know we need to beat If we want to be champions. This is one of those teams you have to get past," Ravens Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley said.
And Baltimore has defensive personnel to replicate some of the gap control schemes that helped the Chargers again make Mahomes appear mortal.
The Ravens also have an NFL-best five takeaways after two games and old friend Marcus Peters, the starter opposite Humphrey at cornerback, should be considered a clear and present danger facing his old mates from Kansas City. Combined, the Ravens CB tandem scored five defensive TDs in 2019. Peters is a pick-six machine with six defensive touchdowns (seven total) in his career.
Humphrey, who has an interception and forced fumble already this season, was at field level when Mahomes and the Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers in February.
"I was on the field during the Super Bowl just walking around, watching the other teams warm up," Humphrey said. "The energy I felt down there in Miami, it really just triggered my whole offseason ... just thinking, 'Man, the only thing I really want is a Super Bowl.'"
Jackson and Mahomes are meeting for the third time and are the established NFL elite, not just among the 25-and-under candidates. Each brings a certain stop-and-watch appeal and are among the league's most popular attractions for much different reasons.
"These two are two of the best," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday. "Here you have an opportunity to watch them compete against each other. It's really fun to watch them grow."
Jackson has a fan in Mahomes.
"He's a great player," Mahomes said of Jackson. "He can make all the throws, he can run with the ball, he can really do it all. It's always fun to watch guys like that that put in the work and have success on the field. I look forward to the contest this week."
Mahomes' rally to beat the Chargers wasn't a shock. It added to his splendid 9-0 career September record.
With all of the due attention given the quarterbacks in Monday's game, a pair of rookie running backs are injecting energy into these two vast and unique schemes.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the 32nd pick in the 2020 draft and jumped into the starting lineup immediately. Baltimore plans to utilize another first-round rookie, inside linebacker Patrick Queen, to contain CEH.
Mark Ingram remains the primary back for the Ravens but second-rounder J.K. Dobbins will be part of the game plan. The Chiefs, who closely studied the 2020 running back class, are very aware of Dobbins' skill set. He scored twice in Week 1.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was an assistant coach for Reid from 1997-2007 with the Philadelphia Eagles. The coaches are close friends, as are their wives. Harbaugh said his admiration for Reid is endless.
"He's just really good -- always has been," Harbaugh said. "Anything he does, pretty much all the time, the play is designed to try to score. That's what you understand about Andy. That's just the way he looks at the game."
For the Chiefs, wideout Sammy Watkins is in the concussion protocol and did not practice Thursday. Defensive end Alex Okafor (hamstring) was also a non-participant.
--Field Level Media
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Key Players to Watch
no tickets found.
- IllnessProb Week 8 | probable
Williams has been activated from the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list, and he is expected to be ready for Week 8 versus the Steelers.
- ShoulderOut indefinitely | I-R
Averett has been shifted to the injured reserve list with a slight fracture in his shoulder and will miss an extended period.
- AnkleQues Week 8 | questionable
Ingram II exited the previous game with a left mid-to high-ankle sprain, and it is unclear if he will face the Steelers in Week 8.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Smith is bothered by an ankle injury, and it has yet to be determined if he will partake in Sunday's tilt versus the Texans.
- ConcussionQues Week 8 | questionable
Wolfe sat out the last contest due to a concussion and a neck injury. It remains to be seen if he will take on the Steelers in Week 8.
- HandQues Week 8 | questionable
Phillips exited the last game with a hand injury, and it is unclear if he will be active Week 8 against the Steelers.
- AbdominalQues Week 8 | questionable
Levine Sr. has an abdominal injury and missed the previous game. It is unclear if he will play Week 8 against the Steelers.
- AnkleQues Sun | questionable
Smith is hindered by an ankle injury, and it is undetermined if he will face the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Backday-to-day | questionable
Schwartz was absent from the last game due to a back injury, and it is uncertain if he will be active against the Jets in Week 8.
- Kneeday-to-day | I-R
Rankin has been designated for the PUP list with a patella injury. His two-week window to be activated has now begun.
- HamstringOut indefinitely | I-R
Okafor has been shifted to the injured reserve list with a hamstring injury, and team officials have yet to provide an exact return date.
- Kneeday-to-day | questionable
Charlton missed the last game with a knee injury, and it is unclear if he will play Week 8 against the Jets.
- ElbowProb Sun | probable
Saunders has been activated from the Injured Reserve/Designated for Return list after recovering from a dislocated elbow, and he is likely to return against the Broncos on Sunday.
- KneeI-R | I-R
Oselmele suffered torn tendons in both of his knees, and the team has put him on the injured reserve list.
- HandQues Mon | questionable
Hitchens was forced from the previous game with a hand injury and is now ailing from an illness. It is unknown if he will suit up Monday against the Bills.
- IllnessOut indefinitely | I-R
Sherman will be on the Injured Reserve/COVID-19 list for an extended period after displaying symptoms of the virus.