- Through two weeks, the Ravens’ defense ranks top 10 in both run defense and pass defense success rate allowed. The Chiefs’ defense ranks bottom 10 in both stats.
- Patrick Mahomes’ 6.0-yard average throw depth is well below his 8.9-yard average across 2018 and 2019.
The Chiefs and Ravens bring so much to the table. What felt like a lock to be the 2019 AFC Championship was spoiled by the Titans, but one can’t help but feel we’re headed for several future playoff contests between these teams. Lamar Jackson, the reigning MVP, took the crown from 2018 winner Patrick Mahomes. Both are young and redefining their position. I’m not even sure how much we can rely on past trends when we look at these offenses, because they are always liable to introduce something new.
But the story of this game might be better told on the defensive side of the ball. That’s because while either quarterback is capable of playing so well that he dictates the game, the Ravens are a much stiffer test for Mahomes than the Chiefs project to be for Jackson. Baltimore’s defense has looked like one of the better units in the league through two games, checking both pass defense and run defense off as strengths; Kansas City’s defense has been beatable in both regards.
Of course, betting against Mahomes feels like a mistake. So far this year, Mahomes has been more of an underneath passer, clocking a 6.0-yard average throw depth that is well below his 8.9-yard average over the past two seasons. That is likely a small sample fluke that will normalize over a longer season. But when looking for which team has a small edge here, Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense looking slightly off early this season is at least noteworthy.
Finding value on the game total is largely a question of who dictates tempo. If the Ravens are effective on offense and lead early, they may be able to keep this under the huge total through their power running game, shortening the game and limiting possessions for Mahomes. If Kansas City gets out ahead, Baltimore will need to play faster, and an up tempo game with plenty of possessions is a style the Chiefs are comfortable with.
The Chiefs have been able to win close matchups each of the two times these teams and quarterbacks have met over the past two regular seasons. Both games were in Kansas City, and I have to think after Baltimore’s exciting 2019 season came to a disappointing playoff end, they’ve had this Week 3 home contest circled all offseason as a chance to make a statement and prove they can win a big game. I’m not sure such motivations will matter if Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense clicks in a way it hasn’t over the past two weeks, but John Harbaugh is a good coach with a track record of statement wins, notably including the Ravens’ thrashing of New England in Week 9 last year in a game that erased any lingering doubts of whether their early-season success was for real.
The -3.5 line is tough because a field goal could decide this game either way, and the value on the money line certainly sits with the Chiefs. If you like the Ravens to dictate this game more than Kansas City, as I do, I think the play is the under. I expect plenty of points to be scored, but if Baltimore does establish their ground game and minimize possessions, 54 will be a big total to hit.
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NFL Expert Picks
Pick: Under 54 @ -105
NFL Free Picks
Ben Gretch is known for his ability to use statistics and in-depth knowledge to break down NFL games and pick winners. Elsewhere this week we have more great NFL coverage from Ben Rolfe and the enigmatic Davis Mattek delivering a video breakdown of that huge Monday Night Football game.