The Chiefs were a sexy preseason pick to win the AFC West this year.
After a 1-3 start, the buzz around the Chiefs has changed. Yet Kansas City's talent hasn't.
The first-place Ravens are the consensus media pick to win Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium, but the Chiefs can still pose a major challenge if they do two things: don't turn the ball over and notch big plays.
"A few years ago, they were a playoff team," running back Ray Rice said. "Not a lot has changed with the personnel there, so we know what they are capable of. That's a very dangerous team with a lot of weapons. I never really get into a team's record."
The Chiefs have the No. 4-ranked offense in the NFL, averaging 419.5 yards per game. They have the league's second-leading rusher in Jamaal Charles (415 rushing yards). Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe is fourth in the AFC with 342 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Kansas City is tied for seventh in the league in big plays (20 or more yards) with 20, and has the capability to notch them both on the ground and through the air. According to Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees, big plays have been the Ravens' "biggest nemesis."
The Chiefs' Achilles heel has been turnovers. They had six last week against San Diego, including three picks from quarterback Matt Cassel and two Charles fumbles. Kansas City has the worst turnover ratio in the league at -13.
"They're a very talented football team," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "When you look at the statistics, they're way out in front in every statistical category except one – and that's turnovers."
3 Matchups To Watch
OLB Tamba Hali vs. T Michael Oher
Hali had two sacks and a forced fumble against Oher in their 2011 playoff meeting. A Pro Bowler last year, Hali is off to a somewhat slow start. He had a one-game suspension and
has notched just one sack in the three following games. Oher has allowed only one sack so far this year.
CB Lardarius Webb vs. WR Dwayne BoweIf Webb is assigned to Bowe, the big-bodied receiver will have a four-inch height advantage. Still, this would be a matchup of two of the best at their respective positions. Bowe was held without a catch the last time he went against Baltimore. It wasn't versus Webb, however. The Ravens made sure with their scheme that Bowe didn't beat them deep. Baltimore could also opt to match Bowe against one of its bigger corners like Cary Williams or Jimmy Smith.
OLB Courtney Upshaw vs. RB Jamaal CharlesThe Ravensdefensive defense has to crack down on the speedy Charles getting to the edge. A lot of that discipline will be on first-round pick Upshaw. The rookie starter has played better as the season has gone on, and Sunday may call for one of his best performances.
3 Questions To Answer
Can the Ravens win on the road?
Baltimore has lost four of its last six road games (including the playoffs). The Ravens offense struggled in the second half in Philadelphia once the crowd was more into the game, as it impacts the no-huddle attack. Arrowhead Stadium can be an extremely loud place if the Chiefs get a lead. Who will be this week's offensive breakout performer?
had monster games in the first four weeks from tight end Dennis Pitta, wide receiver Jacoby Jones, wide receiver Torrey Smith and wide receiver Anquan Boldin, respectively. Could it be another person's turn to break out, such as Rice or tight end Ed Dickson? Baltimore is spreading the ball around.
When will the defense dominate?
Baltimore's proud defense is still giving up too many
yards at an average of 390.3 per game. Is this the game where that trend breaks? The Chiefs are turnover prone and the Ravens defense has done a good job of forcing them with six so far. So even if it gives up yards, Baltimore could capitalize on errors.
2012 Team Rankings
RavensTotal Defense – 390.3 (23)
Rush Defense – 94.5 (13)
Pass Defense – 295.8 (29)
Points Allowed Per Game – 20.8 (10t)
Total Offense – 424.0 (2)
Rush Offense – 113.8 (12)
Pass Offense – 310.3 (4)
Points Scored Per Game – 30.3 (5)
Total Defense – 334.0 (13)
Rush Defense – 118.0 (20)
Pass Defense – 216.0 (13)
Points Allowed Per Game – 34.0 (31)
Total Offense – 419.5 (4)
Rush Offense – 173.5 (2)
Pass Offense – 246.0 (17)
Points Scored Per Game – 22.0 (18)