When I first looked at the 2020-21 NFL schedule there was one game that jumped out. It was the Week 3 Monday Night Football matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs vs Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champions and the Ravens have the defending regular-season MVP. The best teams in the NFL are on course to collide in an instant classic. This will mark the 719th game on MNF.
The Ravens have won 14 straight regular-season games and the Chiefs have won eight straight, which is the two longest active win streaks in the NFL. The last time teams met on 8+ game win streaks was in 1969. “I think that makes this the biggest game we’ve ever seen the Ravens play at home in the regular season,” said Gerry Sandusky, the Ravens’ play-by-play announcer for the past 32 years. He also said, “Everybody has the belief right now that the winner of this game has the upper hand in home-field advantage (in the AFC).”
The “Game of the Year” will not have thousands of screaming fans wearing black and purple in Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. Instead, it will be pumped full of fake crowd noise as fans will be glued to their TVs. The game is set to kick-off at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. Make sure to visit our sportsbook and place your bets on this highly anticipated matchup. You can follow along with all the latest news on our NFL betting hub all season long.
— The Ringer (@ringer) September 23, 2020
The Tale of the MVPs
There have only been four games in NFL history where the reigning MVP and Super Bowl MVP have gone head-to-head. The Chiefs vs Ravens contest will mark the fifth iteration of this. The Super Bowl MVP has won the four previous matchups.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes is coming off a season in which he won the Super Bowl MVP. In the wake of his most recent success, he signed the largest contract in sports history by signing a 10-year, $503 million contract this offseason. Mahomes, who turned 25 last week, is the master of the comeback.
Opponents of Mahomes no longer feel safe with the largest fourth-quarter leads. Mahomes was 5-0 when trailing by double digits in the 2019 season, including 3-0 in the postseason. He is the first QB in NFL history to lead three double-digit comebacks in a single postseason.
The Ravens have their own reigning MVP in Lamar Jackson. Jackson has taken the term “dual-threat QB” to a whole nother meaning. He has already set many franchise and NFL records in his first two seasons, and it seems like he is only getting better.
Last season he shattered Michael Vick’s single-season quarterback rushing yards record by netting 1,206 yards on the ground. No player has posted more yards per attempt (minimum 150) than Jackson, who averaged 6.85 yards per attempt in 2019. The previous best was the 6.40 set by Hall of Famer Jim Brown for the Cleveland Browns in 1963. Jackson added 3,127 yards through the air, which made him the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 3,000-plus yards and rush for 1,000-plus yards in a single season.
When I watch these young QBs on tape I see a defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare. Both can make pinpoint throws from the pocket. Mahomes and Jackson ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in Expected Points Added (EPA) per dropback attempt last year.
By the Numbers
Jackson has been named the best pocket passer by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert in his early-season QB awards. The reigning MVP has completed 20-26 passes for 369 yards, four touchdowns and a QBR of 97. Jackson led the league in total touchdown passes and touchdown passes from the pocket in 2019.
— PFF (@PFF) May 18, 2020
These two guys are throwing as well as an all-time great like Peyton Manning from the pocket and also have the wheels to get away from the rush and extend plays. The moment Mahomes and Jackson decide to scramble the defense is in immediate trouble. Jackson averaged 11.0 yards on his 39 scramble runs. Mahomes averaged 9.3 yards on his 23 scrambles last season. In Mahomes latest come from behind victory over the Chargers last week, he scrambled for 21 yards on 3rd and 20 to set up the field goal to tie the game late in the fourth.
Chargers pressure on 3rd and forever and with the defenders playing with inside leverage, all of their backs end up turned to Mahomes.
Mahomes realizes this quickly and scrambles for the 1st down. pic.twitter.com/9rSp6vQ9eF
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) September 20, 2020
Chiefs vs Ravens Previous Matchups
Week 3, 2019 — Chiefs 33-28
It was just over a year ago when these teams last met in Kansas City. Like this season, both teams entered the 2019 matchup 2-0. The Chiefs won the game 33-28. The first quarter ended with the Ravens leading 6-0. The score was 23-6 at half after a 23-point second quarter by the Chiefs. The Chiefs held onto a fourth-quarter lead and the final score was 33-28.
Mahomes threw for 374 yards, 3 TDs, and no interceptions and ended the game with a passer rating of 132.0. He only had 9 of the Chiefs 140 rushing yards. Jackson threw for 267 yards on a season-high 43 attempts with no TDs or INTs. Jackson accounted for one of the four rushing TDs and 46 of the Ravens’ 203 total rushing yards.
Week 13, 2018 — Chiefs 27-24
The first time Mahomes and Jackson faced off was in Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. Jackson’s rookie season was 2018 and he was supposed to be the backup to Joe Flacco. Flacco was injured in Week 6 and Jackson took over and led his team to an AFC North division title. His only regular-season loss that year was an overtime defeat to the Chiefs in Week 13.
Mahomes and the Chiefs fell behind by a touchdown with four minutes left in the fourth quarter. He led his team down the field and threw the game-tying five-yard touchdown pass to Damien Williams with less than a minute on the clock. Harrison Butker ended the game with a 35-yard field goal with 4:42 left in OT.
Mahomes threw for 377 yards on 35-of-53 pass attempts and had 2 TDs and 1 INT. Jackson was 13-of-24 with 147 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. The Ravens rushed for 194 yards and 1 TD while holding KC to 94 rushing yards and 1 TD. The Chiefs were 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions and controlled the clock for 37:00 minutes.
It is safe to say that both defenses have to be wondering how they are going to stop their opponents’ high-octane offenses. The better defense through the first two weeks of the season and last season has been Baltimore’s.
The Ravens’ Pass Defense
The Ravens have two All-Pro cornerbacks in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters. They both created a turnover against the Texans in the Ravens’ Week 2 victory. The Ravens also sacked Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson four times. The Ravens lost nickel cornerback Tavon Young to a season-ending knee injury in the game. This Ravens’ defense is deep at corner and should not miss Young too much if the other guys can stay healthy.
The last time the Ravens played the Chiefs? @marcuspeters wasn't a Raven yet…
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) September 25, 2020
The Ravens’ Rush Defense
The Ravens held Houston to 51 yards on 17 attempts last week. Rookie middle linebacker Patrick Queen led the team with nine tackles. In 2019, the Ravens gave up the fifth-least amount of rushing yards in the NFL and are top-10 so far in 2020. They will need DE Calais Campbell and OLB Pernell McPhee to continue to have strong games against the run to slow down Clyde Edwards-Helaire and make the Chiefs one-dimensional.
The Chiefs’ Pass Defense
Kansas City surrendered 311 passing yards to Chargers rookie Justin Herbert in its close OT victory last week. The reigning Super Bowl champions’ pass defense looked much better in their Week 1 victory over the Texans, holding Watson to 253 yards. Cornerback L’Jarius Sneed has two interceptions and safety Tyrann Mathieu still ranks among the league’s most versatile playmakers. All-Pro DT Chris Jones has four quarterback hits and 1½ sacks. Last season, the Chiefs finished eighth in pass defense.
Here is a look at the latest Super Bowl Odds
The Chiefs’ Rush Defense
The Chargers did not find much resistance while running for 183 yards against the Chiefs. Houston also got the ground game going rushing for 118 yards on 22 attempts. This should be an area of concern as the Chiefs prepare to slow down the Ravens’ top rushing attack. The Chiefs ranked 26th in run defense allowing 4.9 yards per carry last season.
Special Teams — ‘Kicking Battle for the Ages’
It is a matchup for the ages. It is rare that you have the two of the top players to play a position going head-to-head. That’s what we get on MNF when Justin Tucker and Harrison Butker take the field.
I mean…..the story writes itself…
TWO KICKERS ENTER.
ONLY ONE SURVIVES.
(okay they'll both go home but you get the idea) pic.twitter.com/JRD6EvFNBb
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) September 23, 2020
One of these guys could easily end up the hero. The team that wins could be whoever has the ball last and can get the ball to their opponent’s 40-yard line. These kickers are the guys who make a good team great. I know it is not sexy but these guys are going to make a big difference.
Injuries | Chiefs vs Ravens
- RB Darrel Williams – Questionable – ankle
- WR Sammy Watkins – Questionable – concussion protocol
- CB Charvarius Ward – Questionable
- DE Alex Okafor – Questionable
- WR Chris Moore – Questionable – Finger
- DT Justin Madubuike – Questionable
- CB Tavon Young – Out – ACL
The Ravens look like the better football team on paper. They have a better defense and a better rushing attack. The problem for the Ravens is the game is not played on paper, it is played on the gridiron. And no one seems to make more plays to win games than Mahomes. Even with Jackson lining up at the other QB, Mahomes still holds the edge as the QB to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship.
If the Ravens can jump out to another early lead and effectively run the ball they could literally run away. The Ravens are an NFL-best 19-0 when leading at halftime since Jackson took over in 2018. They are 0-5, including the playoffs, when trailing after two quarters. And once again, no lead is safe with Mahomes as the opposing quarterback.
If you look around you won’t find too many experts picking the Chiefs to win this game. As I said Baltimore is better on paper and this is why so many people are jumping on them to win this Chiefs vs Ravens MNF game.
Chiefs vs Ravens Betting Breakdown
- Kansas City Chiefs | + 3½ -110 | +165
- Baltimore Ravens | -3½ -110 | -190
- O/U 54½
Reigning Super Bowl champions are 11-1 ATS as underdogs within the first three weeks of the season over the last 20 seasons. Mahomes is 10-2 ATS in September games with 28 TDs and zero interceptions.
Take the 3½ points and the Chiefs and remember they will never be out of the game no matter what the score is with Mahomes slinging the pigskin.
If you look at the chart above, the under is trending. I am hesitant to take the under in a game with these QBs and kickers. I like the Over.