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Late for Work: Reaction to Ravens Facing Chiefs in NFL Kickoff Game

CB Brandon Stephens
CB Brandon Stephens

Reaction to Ravens Facing Chiefs in NFL Kickoff Game

The NFL world has been buzzing since the news broke yesterday that a rematch of the AFC Championship Game between the Ravens and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will kick off the regular season on Thursday, Sept. 5.

Here's a look at what pundits are saying about the marquee matchup:

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec: "This should be welcomed by the Ravens for a number of reasons. For one, they get their trip to Arrowhead out of the way in early September instead of potentially having to play in Kansas City in November and December, when weather could be a major factor. It could be beneficial that the Ravens will find out immediately how good they are. John Harbaugh typically has his team ready to go from the jump. The Ravens are 12-4 in regular-season-opening games under Harbaugh, and they've won seven of their last eight. If the Ravens get some motivation by witnessing all the pomp and circumstance that involves the Chiefs raising another banner, that's a good thing."

NBC Sports' Chris Simms: "The thing I love about the Ravens and the Chiefs is that it will still be personal because, of course, the last time the Ravens walked off the field it was [against] the Chiefs. So they're going to go in there going, 'Damn, last year was our year, and, gosh, they're hanging up a banner tonight, and we remember that day and we can still feel the feelings of losing and walking off the field.' So I'm of course pumped by that. Patrick Mahomes, Lamar, first game of the year, it doesn't get better."

NFL Network's David Carr: "The Baltimore Ravens are probably thinking, 'OK, we're gonna measure ourselves pretty quickly. If we're going to be a team to do something this year, let's find out how good we are right away with the world champion Kansas City Chiefs.' The Chiefs have had to do this for several years now. It's like, 'OK, we're the best, bring us your best, see if you guys are good enough to hang with us, and we'll see where we go from there.' It's going to be a great matchup. Two incredible quarterbacks. I love what Baltimore's doing on offense: it's gonna make for a dynamic show. They're great on defense as well, and Kansas City just as good on defense, flying around with those young guys, [Defensive Coordinator Steve] Spagnuolo going to be coming all over the place with different pressures, trying to mix up looks for Lamar like they did when they played the last time. It's going to be a great matchup."

NFL Network's Rich Eisen: "I thought they'd send the Bengals there to start. I didn't think they'd start the season with a monster piece of filet mignon that I'm sure CBS wouldn't have minded having for later in the season when the Ravens take on the Chiefs in Kansas City. The fact that it's the reigning MVP that got bounced by the reigning Super Bowl champs next year starting it off against one another and Derrick Henry's first game there for the Ravens, and Henry's got a history there. Just ask a Chiefs fan about the Titans. Man, this is fun stuff coming right out of the gate."

Baltimore Beatdown's Stephen Bopst: "In an AFC Championship rematch, the Ravens will get a chance to enact a level of revenge against the Kansas City Chiefs on September 5th. With Derrick Henry in the backfield, I expect the Ravens to come out with a slightly different game plan than the one they had in January. The Ravens typically have great success in Week 1. Given the opponent, they should be even more motivated to make a statement in this primetime opener."

"Locked on Ravens" Podcast's Kevin Oestreicher: "I think there will be a motivation factor for Baltimore. I think there was going to be one anyway regardless of when they played just because they understand that this is the team they need to go through. The regular season is not the be all, end all. We know that from last season, where Baltimore's the best regular-season team by a pretty wide margin, but they didn't show up when it mattered against Kansas City. I think for the players on last year's team this could be a boost for them. … I think it will help them understand why it's so important, especially seeing all that celebration, as to, look, we know we have to go through this team, let's go out there and give it our best shot in Week 1."

Pro Football Focus: Ravens Have Strongest Running Backs and Safeties Post-Draft

Pro Football Focus’ John Losko identified the strongest and weakest position groups coming out of the draft. The Ravens were named the strongest at two positions:

Running backs

"The Ravens added Derrick Henry to an already productive room. Pairing Henry with the lightning-fast Keaton Mitchell and the underrated Justice Hill gives Baltimore a diverse backfield to punish opposing defenses, with Henry bulldozing through defensive lines, Mitchell speeding past tacklers and Hill spelling the future Hall of Famer."


"Kyle Hamilton's excellent play shouldn't overshadow the importance of Marcus Williams at the other safety spot. With those two earning PFF grades of 86.4 and 73.8, respectively, the Ravens have a formidable duo that can play off each other's strengths very well. Hamilton is a moveable chess piece and Williams can roam the middle of the field with excellent range. Baltimore's safety group posted a 93.5 coverage grade in 2023."

How Antoine Winfield Jr.'s Mega-Deal Affects Kyle Hamilton

Speaking of safeties, Tampa Bay's Antoine Winfield Jr. agreed with the Buccaneers on a four-year, $84.1 million contract, which includes $45 million in guaranteed money and makes him the highest-paid defensive back in the NFL. It's the first time that a safety has had the distinction.

Winfield's deal gives the Ravens a baseline for a new contract for Hamilton, who will become eligible for a deal next offseason. Hamilton, 23, was an All-Pro in his second year.

"Of the five highest-paid safeties currently in the NFL, only Derwin James, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Winfield Jr. are more accomplished, meaning Hamilton could be the first $100 million safety in NFL history," Ravens Wire’s Glenn Erby wrote.

Brandon Stephens Is Ravens' Most Underrated Player

The Ravens have a star-studded secondary, but one player who gets overlooked nationally is cornerback Brandon Stephens.

PFF's Zoltan Budday named the most underrated player on each team, and Stephens was his choice for Baltimore.

"Stephens, who mostly played safety during his rookie season in 2021, has transitioned into a perimeter cornerback," Buday wrote. "After playing situationally in his first two seasons, he was thrust into action due to injuries in 2023 and ended up playing more snaps than any other Baltimore defender last season. His 67.4 PFF grade in 2023 was the highest among all Ravens outside cornerbacks."

ESPN Pundit Says Roger Rosengarten Can Make Immediate Impact

ESPN's Field Yates ranked the top 10 Day 2 or Day 3 picks from this year's drafts on both sides of the ball who can make an immediate impact in their rookie seasons.

Offensive tackle Roger Rosengarten, the Ravens' second-round pick (No. 62 overall), came in at No. 4.

"Rosengarten was a college right tackle and will stay on the right side in the pros, as Baltimore had a major need at that position coming into the draft," Yates wrote. "He has very good length and smooth footwork to handle some of the top-notch edge rushers who he'll face almost weekly in the AFC North. Rosengarten never allowed a sack in college over 28 starts."

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