Late for Work 9/17: Pundits Near Unanimous in Picking Chiefs Over Ravens

091721-LFW
CB Anthony Averett

Pundits Near Unanimous in Picking Chiefs o*ver Ravens*

The Ravens head into Sunday's home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs on a short week, coming off a heartbreaking loss, and banged up beyond belief.

Oh, and they're playing a team that has been called their kryptonite and an All-Pro quarterback who is 3-0 against them.

Given all of that, 47 of 48 pundits we looked at picked the Chiefs to win. ESPN's Kevin Seifert is the only pundit to predict a Ravens win.

The oddsmakers agree with the majority, as the Ravens are home underdogs — Kansas City is favored by 3.5 points — for the first time since 2019.

There's a lot pointing to a Chiefs victory, but you know what former ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne says: "The games aren't played on paper; they're played by little men inside our TV sets."

Remember what happened in that game in 2019 when the Ravens were home underdogs? They defeated the New England Patriots, who came in with an 8-0 record, 37-20, in primetime.

Here's a sample of what the pundits are saying about the game:

The Chiefs defense has neutralized Lamar Jackson in previous meetings and will get two key starters back for this game.

NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal: "Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu are expected to return for a Chiefs defense that has held Lamar Jackson in check in three wins over the Baltimore QB."

Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer: "The Chiefs' defense is better positioned to contain Jackson while the Ravens are not as equipped to handle Mahomes throwing downfield often to his favorite targets, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce."

The Ravens' blitz-happy defense doesn't match up well against the Chiefs offense.

NBC Sports' Chris Simms: "I think [Defensive Coordinator] Wink Martindale is going to have to reinvent what he wants to do on defense because of injuries, because of the lack of pass rush. They're going to have to find a new formula. It's scary. I don't know how they can pull this off. They're not going to get there with their front four. … I don't see it with their pass rush. And Marlon Humphrey is the only real elite secondary guy they have there. That's just not a good formula for Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs."

The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer: "According to Sports Info Solutions, the Ravens have come for Mahomes at a pretty consistent clip over the past three seasons, sending five or more pass rushers on 37% to 39% of his drop-backs — not quite up to Martindale's typical rate, but still more than Mahomes usually sees. It hasn't worked. The Ravens have sacked the elusive Mahomes just once on a blitz, and their 26 combined pressures haven't amounted to much in coverage. In 2018, he went 15-for-21 for 149 yards and a touchdown against the blitz. In 2019, he was 9-for-14 for 88 yards and two touchdowns. In 2020, he was 14-for-17 for 199 yards and two touchdowns. That works out to a 123.0 passer rating overall."

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco: "The Ravens love to blitz and Patrick Mahomes will carve that decision to do so to shreds. Lamar Jackson will keep it close, but in the end the Chiefs will pull away."

Patrick Mahomes is Mr. September and it's already been a painful month (literally) for the Ravens.

CBS Sports' John Breech: "Patrick Mahomes is undefeated in the month of September and there's no way I can pick against that. Not only is he 11-0 during the first month of the season, but he's also 3-0 against Lamar Jackson. Also, the Ravens are going into this game on a short week, they had to fly across the country after an emotional loss on Monday and they're banged up. I think I'll take the Chiefs."

The Ravens need to do a better job of protecting the ball than they did in Week 1.

Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher: "In Week 1 against the Raiders, Baltimore had trouble holding onto the football, as the team fumbled four times in total, losing two of them. Three of those came from quarterback Lamar Jackson (two were lost), while one came from wideout Devin Duvernay. If the Ravens are going to have any chance of beating the Chiefs in Week 2, they will have to do a better job at protecting the football, as giving possession to the Kansas City offense off of a turnover is a recipe for disaster."

It won't be easy, but the Ravens can beat the Chiefs.

NBC's Chris Collinsworth: "I guess the question is: can the Ravens beat these guys? And my answer would be they absolutely can beat Kansas City. They absolutely can because they match up well running the football. They've always run the ball well. But you've got to be so good and so consistent and not make mistakes, and that's hard because they're going to answer everything you do."

As the injuries continue to mount for the Ravens, the Chiefs are operating at full strength.

ESPN's Jamison Hensley: "The injuries continue to relentlessly pile up for the Baltimore Ravens just two weeks into the regular season. Ravens backup cornerback Chris Westry is expected to miss at least a month with a torn lateral meniscus, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler on Thursday. Westry was third among the team's cornerbacks with 33 snaps played in Monday's loss to Las Vegas. … The injury news could get even worse for Baltimore. Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley didn't practice for a second straight day with an ankle injury. … The Chiefs, meanwhile, had every player practice for a second straight day as they prepare for Sunday night's game in Baltimore."

Table inside Article
Pundits Picks
ESPN 10 of 11 panelists pick Chiefs / NA
Baltimore Sun Chiefs 34, Ravens 24 / “[Patrick] Mahomes, [Tyreek] Hill and [Travis] Kelce are almost impossible to contain under the best of circumstances. These aren’t the best of circumstances for the Ravens, who are coming off a series of devastating injuries, a stunning Week 1 loss and a short week of preparation.”— Childs Walker
USA Today 7 of 7 panelists pick Chiefs / NA
NFL.com Chiefs 31, Ravens 26 / “With everything pointing toward a Chiefs blowout, the most popular bet of the week will be K.C. covering. I had a whole screed pushing back against that and then the news broke that Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley is likely to be out and I lost my nerve. Prove me wrong, Lamar; I’m sad and not thinking straight!” — Gregg Rosenthal
NFL Network 10 of 10 panelists pick Chiefs / NA
Sporting News Chiefs 27, Ravens 23 / “The Chiefs have controlled this series when it's been Andy Reid vs. protege John Harbaugh and Patrick Mahomes vs. Lamar Jackson. Don't expect a different result here with Baltimore coming off a short week and Kansas City being a fearless traveling team.” — Vinnie Iyer
CBS Sports 8 of 8 panelists pick Chiefs / “Patrick Mahomes is undefeated in the month of September and there's no way I can pick against that. Not only is he 11-0 during the first month of the season, but he's also 3-0 against Lamar Jackson.”— John Breech
Pro Football Talk 3 of 3 panelists pick Chiefs / “I think the Ravens give a last-ditch, tough effort. They never give up. But ultimately I just think the Chiefs are a really tough matchup.” — Chris Simms
Sports Illustrated 5 of 5 panelists pick Chiefs
Fansided Chiefs 35, Ravens 23 / “In three starts against the Ravens, Patrick Mahomes is 3-0. Last year, Mahomes tossed five touchdowns in a decisive win on MNF at Baltimore. The Ravens are beat up, on a short week and facing arguably the best team in football, who they never play well against.” — Matt Verderame

Are the Ravens Asking Jackson to Do Too Much?

With the Ravens losing their top three running backs prior to the start of the season and fielding an offensive line that's banged up and still adjusting to playing together, is the team putting too much on Jackson's shoulders?

ESPN's Booger McFarland thinks so.

"They're asking him to share a large volume of the offense. And to me that's a recipe for disaster, as we saw on Monday night," McFarland said on Tony Kornheiser's podcast. "He had a couple fumbles because he's scrambling around trying to make a play. … He's going to have to do a lot of this with him, a porous offensive line and Mark Andrews. And he's a good tight end but he's not going to be able to carry an offense like a [Travis] Kelce, so I think Lamar's in for a long year."

It goes without saying that Jackson, one of the most explosive and electrifying players in the sport, is the focal point of the offense. The Ravens have tailored the offense to maximize his skillset.

Whether the Ravens are asking too much of him is debatable. Perhaps Jackson, being the leader that he is, was trying to do too much against the Raiders Monday night, but it was just one game.

Because of a spate of injuries, the offense hasn't had time to jell. I feel confident in saying that the Ravens aren't expecting the offense to be a one-man show. Wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Sammy Watkins both made plays in Week 1 to help Jackson out, for example.

On a side note, despite Jackson being 0-3 against Mahomes, Fox Sports' Marcellus Wiley doesn't think Jackson has anything to prove Sunday night.

"Nothing's at stake for Lamar Jackson" Wiley said on "Speak For Yourself."

In addition to pointing out that Jackson is playing against Kansas City's defense and not Mahomes, Wiley noted that Peyton Manning started off 0-6 against Tom Brady, but then went 6-5 after that and 3-2 in the playoffs.

Second-Guessing Orlando Brown Jr. Trade Is Unwarranted

With the Ravens' issues with the offensive line and Orlando Brown Jr. returning to M&T Bank Stadium in a Chiefs uniform Sunday night, it's easy to second guess the Ravens' decision to grant the Pro Bowl tackle's trade request this offseason.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec doesn't see it that way.

"I'm not going to second guess [General Manager Eric] DeCosta and crush the deal in hindsight, because when it was consummated, I said that the Ravens made the best of a potentially bad situation," Zrebiec wrote. "No, the Ravens didn't have to trade Brown. If he had held out or declined to report, Brown would have only been hurting himself and putting his 2022 free-agent status at risk. The Ravens could have called his bluff and vowed to keep him, putting the ball in Brown and his agent's court. In a Super Bowl-or-bust kind of season, there would have been plenty of justification for DeCosta to do just that and enter the season with two Pro Bowl-caliber tackles.

"But holding onto a player who wants out rarely ends well for either party. The Ravens have long asked their players to buy into the team concept and if they're not interested in doing so, they'll move on. The Ravens weren't going to be able to afford a Brown extension anyway, not after already making Stanley one of the highest-paid tackles in the league, not after recently paying Marlon Humphrey top cornerback money, not with the likes of Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews nearing the end of their rookie deals. Trading Brown a year early allowed them to get legitimate value in return, rather than a future mid-round compensatory pick."

Zrebiec noted that there will be few complaints about the trade if outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, the player the Ravens selected with the Chiefs' first-round pick, becomes a star. Oweh had a sack and multiple pressures in his first NFL regular-season game.

Analysts Still Believe Ravens Are Contenders

Starting the season with a loss to the Raiders was a bummer, especially with Kansas City coming to town. But several analysts believe it's way too early to write this off as a lost season for the Ravens.

"Well-coached football teams will be there in the end, short of even more catastrophic injuries," Collinsworth told The Baltimore Sun. "I mean, they can't lose Lamar at this point and expect it to hold together. But am I anywhere close to going, 'Oh, the Ravens got beat on the road against a Raiders football team that's really improved, now they're not one of the favorites?' No, I'm a long way from that."

ESPN's Domonique Foxworth said the multitude of injuries are a concern, especially in the secondary, but he believes the Ravens are still the favorites in a competitive AFC North.

"I'm not going to change my answer. I'm going to stick with the Ravens," Foxworth said on "Get Up." "We'll see what happens in their game against Kansas City and their games going forward."

Former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan said there's no reason to panic.

"It's certainly not time to jump off the bridge with this team," Nolan said on Glenn Clark Radio earlier this week. "The Ravens are an excellent football team. … There are 16 more games to come, so I think that's all going to be fine. They'll get back on track [and] everything will be great."

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