5 Burning Questions: Ravens at Chiefs
These questions will be answered in the highly-anticipated Week 3 matchup
1. Will Lamar Jackson rip his jersey off mid-game and reveal he is Superman? If he does, will we do more than shrug and say to ourselves, “Well that makes sense”?
I’ll admit I’ve been a Jackson believer since September 17, 2016 when he broke the spirit of the Florida State football program so completely (in a 63-20 thrashing that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated) that they still have not recovered. I’ve believed in his dedication and work ethic since I saw him improve every offseason in college (and now in the pros). And I've always believed in his ability to win NFL games with his arm since I’ve seen him throw the seam/fade combination with indefensible accuracy these first two weeks.
Lamar Jackson’s thrown for 596 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions with the efficiency of a 145.2 quarterback rating in his first two games of the season. He’s added 120 yards of rushing without even trying. His level of play will undoubtedly regress at some point, but it’s unlikely to be against a Chiefs defense that was torched by Gardner Minshew in Week 1.
2. Is Mark Andrews human, or has he been replaced with a Madden simulation?
George Kittle holds the NFL record for most yards per route run by a tight end at 2.83, but Andrews is on pace to absolutely demolish that number as he’s at 4.68 yards per route through the first two games of the season.
Mark Andrews— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 16, 2019
- 4.68 yards per route run
+ record held by George Kittle (2.83)
- 2.01 yards per route run
+ 35th-best of the PFF-era (2007-2018)
+ best by any rookie tight end in PFF history
- 2.63 yards per route run
+ 2nd-best of the PFF College-era (2014-2018)
That’s just fun with really small sample sizes and a great way to illustrate how amazing Lamar Jackson’s favorite target has been so far, but given Kansas City’s inability to defend tight ends since Eric Berry stopped patrolling their backfield, it’s a trend that’s unlikely to be reversed this Sunday.
3. Will we see any regression from the Ravens defense?
The Ravens let more defensive talent walk in the offseason than most teams have on their entire roster (CJ Mosley, Eric Weddle, Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith are all on new teams) but we haven’t seen much regression in their first two games against the Dolphins and the Cardinals.
I don’t think any team can hope to do more than slow down the Kansas City offense at this point. Andy Reid has married one of the best schemes in the NFL with one of the most freakishly talented groups of skill players we’ve ever seen, but if the Ravens can manage to hold the Chiefs under 30 in Arrowhead, we’ve got to start looking at them like Super Bowl contenders.
4. Can the young Kansas City skill players be as good as we suspect?
The greatest advantage you can have in sports is a player who is a matchup nightmare, whose mere presence demands a double-team. Kansas City had two of them to enter the season in Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Teams had to make the regrettable choice of attempting to single cover them or essentially play 7 vs 9 on defense, so you’d think the offense would be easier to control with TyFreak on the shelf for a bit.
To the dismay of the league, that doesn’t seem to be the case as Demarcus Robinson (who’s been damn near impossible to run with since he was wasted in Jim McElwain’s rudderless University of Florida offenses) appears to have learned how to catch the ball. Mecole Hardman, the speedy rookie out of University of Georgia who made Hill look nearly expendable in the preseason, caught a 72-yard touchdown that got called back for a blatant Shady McCoy hold last week. He also caught this one:
Should either McCoy or Damien Williams need to miss this week’s contest, Darwin Thompson looked ready to own the backfield in the preseason and is still my choice to lead the team in running back touches after Thanksgiving. An embarrassment of riches.
5. Will any of the first four questions be relevant with Patrick Mahomes on the field?
His throws seem to have broken physics and his play seems to have broken football. Everything above is true and fun and some of the young season’s most exciting storylines, but last season’s MVP looks much improved and there’s a chance he reminds us that he’s the best player on the planet by such a wide margin that all the time devoted to Lamar Jackson and other 2019 upstarts is merely “cute”.
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