Chiefs vs. Ravens Odds
Patrick Mahomes is 2-0 against Lamar Jackson, but the Chiefs won by just 3 and 5 points at home. Can the Ravens get the win and cover on their home turf?
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs beat the Ravens 33-28 in last season’s matchup behind a 27-of-37, 374-yard and three-touchdown day from Mahomes. Even more impressively, his brilliant performance came without the services of Tyreek Hill, who missed the game due to injury.
Of course, that was also before the Ravens acquired Marcus Peters. Unfortunately, the Ravens again won’t be at full strength in the secondary as Tavon Young tore his ACL last week, which will force third-year Anthony Averett to play more snaps. Averett has been solid throughout his career, allowing just 6.7 yards per target and one touchdown on 45 career targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
Marlon Humphrey, Peters, and Jimmy Smith give the Ravens more of a puncher’s chance than most defenses to do slow down Mahomes, but he’s as capable as any quarterback in the league of making the Ravens pay for blitzing.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Ravens were the only team to blitz more than half of opposing passing plays last season (54.9%), and they were second in the league with a 47.1% rate this season heading into Week 2.
With Mahomes, the Chiefs can obviously may you pay for blitzing. Per PFF, the Ravens blitzed Mahomes on 17 of his 39 dropbacks (43.6%) in last season’s matchup, yet came away with only 10 pressures (25.6%) and one sack. Mahomes made them pay for their troubles with two touchdown passes, but don’t expect Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale to dial it back after Mahomes torched his unit for an 81.0% completion rate and 13.0 yards per attempt when he didn’t send extra rushers.
The Ravens are allowing the seventh-lowest rushing success rate on early downs (42%), per Sharp Football Stats, so the key for them will be to limit Clyde Edwards-Helaire and make the Chiefs one-dimensional. The Texans couldn’t accomplish this in Week 1, allowing Edwards-Helaire to run circles around them for 128 yards on 25 carries in a 34-20 loss, but the Chargers were able to limit him to just 38 yards on 10 carries in Week 2 and held the Chiefs to 20 points in regulation before losing in overtime.
The Ravens have lost only twice since losing to the Chiefs in Week 3 of the 2019 season.
The most favorable mismatch for the Ravens will be on the ground: After allowing the seventh-most yards per game (128.4) and fourth-most yards per carry (4.9) in 2019, the Chiefs are getting gashed for 150.4 yards and 4.6 yards per carry while ranking 27th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA so far this season.
But gashing the Chiefs on the ground is almost never enough: Since the Mahomes era began in 2018, the Chiefs are 26-8 and haven’t lost a single game by more than one possession — including three starts by backup quarterback Matt Moore — meaning that Jackson will have to make a play through the air at some point.
This is where it gets interesting because last year’s matchup against the Chiefs was about the only game that Jackson didn’t truly look like his MVP self. Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo kept Jackson in the pocket and forced him to attempt 43 passes — his regular-season career high, with only eight rush attempts. He completed only 22-of-43 passes for 267 yards, with none of his league-leading 36 touchdown passes coming in that contest. Jackson did find the end zone once on the ground, but his 46 rushing yards were also the fourth-lowest total in 24 career starts.
This all came with the Ravens running 82 snaps, which illustrates just how well the Chiefs were able to hold up.
One reason the Chiefs are capable of slowing down Jackson as a passer is that they’re more capable than most defenses at slowing down his favorite receiver, tight end Mark Andrews, thanks to safety Tyrann Mathieu. The Honey Badger’s top-end talent and versatility makes him one of the few defensive backs on the planet who can handle the assignment on Andrews, and Mathieu was able to help limit Andrews to three catches for 15 scoreless yards on seven targets in last season’s matchup.
Andrews was Baltimore’s leading receiver last season, but Marquise Brown is their most dangerous one. The Chiefs also held Brown in check in that meeting, allowing him to catch just 2-of-9 targets for 49 yards with no touchdowns. Having a player like Mathieu allows Spagnuolo to focus a bit more on a player like Brown. It also helps to find a gem in the fourth round like cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who has allowed just 56 yards on 11 targets while leading all Chiefs defenders in coverage snaps, according to PFF.
This is where the depth of the Ravens receiving corps will be tested and could prove vulnerable, because there’s a huge drop-off from Andrews and Brown to the likes of Willie Snead, Miles Boykin and Nick Boyle. Jackson completed only 5-of-17 passes thrown 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, and a lot of that has to do with having to force it to Andrews or Brown because of lack of difference-making receiving talent elsewhere.
These are two evenly matched teams that I have power rated almost dead-even. The Ravens have the better run game and defense, but the Chiefs’ passing game and the Honey Badger are the equalizers.
The Ravens enjoy intangible edges over most opponents thanks to head coach John Harbaugh, who is 23-14-2 (64%) against the spread in primetime overall, including 10-4 ATS on Monday Night Football. But it’s difficult to get an edge in the preparation against an Andy Reid-coached team: Reid has led the Chiefs to a 36-19-1 (65%) ATS record on the road, a 17-11-1 (61%) overall ATS record in primetime, and a 5-1-1 (83%) ATS record on Monday Night Football.
Even at kicker, a spot which these teams usually enjoy a decisive edge over the opponent, is pretty even as the career field-goal percentages of Justin Tucker (90.9%) and Harrison Butker (90.2%) are nearly identical.
I make this line Chiefs +2.75, so there’s value in locking them in at more than a field goal.
The Chiefs are tough to beat, much less than by more than a field goal: Since the start of 2018 (including the postseason), just five of the Chiefs’ 40 games (12.5%) have ended with them behind by more than three on the scoreboard.
PICK: Chiefs +3.5