Chiefs, Ravens set for big Monday showdown
It's the defending Super Bowl champions against a team that's won 14 straight regular-season games.
Or, maybe it's a preview of the AFC title game – a matchup many expected to see last January. Most of all, the intrigue surrounding Monday night's game between the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) and Baltimore Ravens (2-0) is directed at the quarterbacks: 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson.
"When those two quarterbacks are on the field, it's magic on both sides," Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "I see every week what Lamar can do, and I always see some highlight or something of what Mahomes can do. So, when you have two superstar quarterbacks like that, it's going to be a fun game."
Mahomes last season led the Chiefs to their first NFL championship since 1970 and was the Super Bowl MVP. Jackson guided the Ravens to a 14-2 regular-season record, set the league mark for yards rushing by a quarterback and directed the most prolific running attack in NFL history. Baltimore closed the regular season with 12 straight wins to earn the top seed in the AFC, but bowed out with an upset loss at home to Tennessee.
That helped Mahomes and the Chiefs to go the distance, and they'll be bringing an 11-game winning streak into Monday night's showdown.
Jackson is 21-3 as a starter during the regular season, with two of those losses coming against Kansas City and Mahomes in 2018 (27-24 in overtime) and 2019 (33-28). But, even though this is the first game in NFL history featuring two MVPs under the age of 26, Jackson waved off the notion that this is solely about him versus Mahomes.
"I don't have to focus on Mahomes. I've got to focus on their defense, I've got to focus on scoring, I've got to focus on my job," Jackson insisted. "My defense has to worry about him."
Oh, there's plenty of reason for the Baltimore defense to be concerned, even though the unit has been exceptional thus far in lopsided wins over Cleveland and Houston. Mahomes threw for 377 yards and two TDs in that 2018 game, and last year pierced the Ravens for 374 yards and three scores.
"He has all these tools, and he has so much talent around him," Humphrey said. "With Mahomes, as good as he is in the pocket, he's just as good – probably better – outside the pocket, which is the craziest thing about his game. So, preparing for him, it's really tough."
GETTING THEIR KICKS
Not only does this game feature two of the league's best quarterbacks, but two of the finest kickers will be ready to roll if a late field-goal try is required for the win.
Kansas City's Harrison Butker banged home two field goals of 58 yards last week in an overtime win over the Chargers. He's been perfect so far this season, led the league in scoring last year and has amassed 445 points in his career, most ever by a kicker after 47 games.
Justin Tucker, meanwhile, is the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.9% on field goals). He's never missed from inside 29 yards, is 226 for 237 from inside 49 yards and has clicked on 71% of his tries from at least 50 yards.
NO HOME CROWD
The Ravens have been waiting since 2017 to have a Monday night game at home, and now that they got one, they'll be forced to play without the backing of their fans. Attendance will be zero because of the pandemic.
So, the Ravens won't enjoy the advantage the Chiefs had while playing at home against Baltimore in each of the past two seasons. This will be the third straight game for the Ravens without fans in the stadium.
"Sometimes you say, 'We'll play them anywhere. We'll play them in a parking lot. We'll play them anywhere. No fans, we don't care,'" coach John Harbaugh said. "Well, here we are. We're playing basically in a parking lot right now – with no fans."
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "It's weird. I've been doing this a couple weeks now and you get out there and it seems like you can hear every penny drop."
LOOK AND SEE
One of the problems the Kansas City offense has faced through the first two games of the season has been defenses that have shown completely different looks from the past. Teams that have run man coverage have gone to zones, and the blitz looks that Houston and Los Angeles have used in the past have been replaced – all in an effort to confuse Mahomes.
Expect the Ravens to do the same thing given how much they've played each other the past few years.
"It's going to be all about execution," Mahomes said. "When you play a defense like this that's very mobile, multiple, you have to be ready to go and have answers for everything. Whenever they give us an un-scouted look, try to have a positive game, go to the sideline and try to figure it out."
Without much offseason or preseason games, and limited hitting to practice it, tackling has been a problem for the Chiefs this season. They know how important it will be against the mobile Jackson and the Ravens' productive ground game.
"Coach Reid did an unbelievable job in camp trying to make things normal," defensive tackle Chris Jones said, "but we just have to stay on that. We missed a lot of tackles last week and that's a big focus this week, wrap up and finish plays."
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this story.
Monday night showdown
WHAT – Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) at Baltimore Ravens (2-0)
WHEN/WHERE – 7:20 p.m. Monday, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Md.
TV/RADIO – KMBC 9 (Comcast channel 12, 812 HD)/WDAF-FM (The Wolf) (106.5 FM)
OPENING LINE – Ravens by 3 1/2
RECORD VS. SPREAD – Chiefs 1-1; Ravens 2-0
SERIES RECORD - Chiefs lead 6-4
LAST MEETING – Chiefs beat Ravens 33-28 on Sept. 22, 2019, at Kansas City
LAST WEEK – Chiefs beat Chargers 23-20, OT; Ravens beat Texans 33-16
AP PRO32 RANKING – Chiefs No. 1; Ravens No. 2
CHIEFS OFFENSE – OVERALL (13), RUSH (8), PASS (18).
CHIEFS DEFENSE – OVERALL (27), RUSH (27), PASS (24).
RAVENS OFFENSE – OVERALL (12), RUSH (4), PASS (24).
RAVENS DEFENSE – OVERALL (2t), RUSH (7), PASS (6).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES – A matchup of defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs against the team with the best regular season record in 2019 (14-2). ... No fans are allowed at M&T Bank Stadium because of coronavirus pandemic. ... The Ravens have won 14 straight in the regular season, KC has won 11 in a row since falling at Tennessee in Week 10 last season. ... The Chiefs have beaten the Ravens in each of the last two seasons, both times in Kansas City. ... Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes won NFL MVP award in 2019, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson won it last year. ... KC is 48-14 against AFC opponents since 2015. … Chiefs coach Andy Reid needs six wins to pass Curly Lambeau (229) for fifth most in NFL history. … Mahomes needs 75 yards passing to reach 10,000 for his career. … Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (6,605) moved past Henry Marshall for fourth in franchise receiving yardage last week. Next up is Dwayne Bowe with 7,155. … Kelce has caught at least one pass in 97 consecutive games. … Chiefs K Harrison Butker tied the franchise record with two 58-yard field goals in last week's win over the Chargers. He also made a 53-yarder during the game. … Butker has kicked a field goal in a franchise-record 16 consecutive games. … Chiefs rookie CB L'Jarius Sneed has an interception in each of his first two games. … KC WR Tyreek Hill has 18 touchdowns of at least 50 yards, including one last week. That's the most in the NFL since 2016. ... Baltimore coach John Harbaugh ranks third among active NFL coaches with .616 win percentage (including playoffs). Reid is tied for fifth at .612. ... This is the Ravens' first home Monday night game since 2017 and only their third since 2008. ... Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey had a forced fumble last week and is the only AFC player this season with FF and INT. ... Baltimore MLB Patrick Queen has led team in tackles both weeks and ranks second among NFL rookies with 17 tackles. ... Ravens CB Marcus Peters had his 28th career INT last week, tied for second most among active players.. ... Jackson has 2,000 yards rushing in his career, reaching that mark in an NFL record-low 33 games, breaking mark by Michael Vick (39). ... Ravens have allowed 21 points or fewer in 13 straight games, longest active streak in NFL. ... Baltimore has forced a turnover in 15 consecutive games and ranks first in the NFL with a plus-4 differential. ... The Ravens are 19-3 at home in September under Harbaugh, who took over in 2008. ... Baltimore K Justin Tucker ranks first in NFL history with 90.9% success rate on FGs. ... Fantasy Tip: You can't go wrong with Mahomes or Jackson, but if that's not an option two of the best tight ends in the NFL are involved: Kelce and Mark Andrews of Baltimore.
– The Associated Press