This post was a little harder to write this week because I'm picking against the Chiefs and don't think they will beat the Ravens. But anything's possible.
My take on how this could go down:
1. At least plus-two in turnovers
This is a key for every team in every game in every NFL season. But I still have to start here because of the Chiefs miserable -13 turnover ratio. The Chiefs absolutely can not lose the turnover battle and expect this game to be competitive. Heck, this game may not be competitive if they split the turnover battle with the Ravens.
The Chiefs need to win the turnover battle by at least plus-two.
Not only that, they need to turn those turnovers into points. A turnover is the same as a fourth down stop if you don't get points off of it.
Dominate the turnover battle and turn them into points.
2. Don't get beat deep
Make the Ravens go down the field on 10-play drives. Don't let Joe Flacco wind up and thrown an 80-yarder to Torrey Smith. Don't let him find a receiver down the seam and have the ball travel 45 yards in the air. If he's going to be waiting that long to throw he has to be pressured.
Make the Ravens work for it. The dump-off passes will be there. You'll win some and you'll lose some there. But I'd rather die that slow, painful death than the dagger of the deep ball.
If they're going to beat you, make them conduct long drives and go the length of the field.
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3. Control the middle of the line
The matchup I'm most worried about: the Ravens nose tackle (Haloti Ngata) against the center (Ryan Lilja). The Chiefs could be vulnerable right there. As we noted here, Ngata has a few (or 50) pounds on Lilja.
That offensive line can collapse like that if the pressure is coming up the middle. Cassel needs some space to throw the ball. This is an obvious area to focus on before the game. The Chiefs have to have a plan.
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4. A reason to stay
I'm not going to blame any fans who begin leaving the stadium if the Chiefs are down 20-0 in the second quarter. If the Chiefs can keep it competitive, they will stay. Big plays usually help in this area.
The classic Arrowhead advantage may be gone (or definitely is) but that's still a fun stadium to be in when the Chiefs do something unexpected.
5. Hope the Ravens don't show up
Seriously. Lock the gates.
There's only one person (or wolf) up for the job.
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