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chiefStats: Five stats that could determine the Chiefs’ game against Ravens

Here are the stats to know ahead of Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Here we go — it’s the Week 14 edition of chiefStats!

Last week, we mentioned how the Raiders were not playing well defensively, and Mahomes went and continued the trend for the Raiders as he destroyed them for four passing touchdowns.

This week, the Chiefs face a difficult opponent when the 7-5 Ravens travel to Kansas City with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson leading them to a 3-0 record during his time as the starter.

Here is the Ravens overview:

Thanks to Bill Connelly’s advanced stats guide for the table above (and some items you’ll see down below.)

The Ravens have a great defense but don’t have a big play or explosive offense. In this case, the Ravens kind of seem to be the polar opposite of the Chiefs — great defense, “meh” offense.

1. Ravens Defense

Of course, we’re going to talk about the Ravens defense...

With Sammy Watkins being out for several weeks, and the recent removal of Kareem Hunt from the team — this game falls almost entirely on Mahomes’ shoulders.

This is the biggest test for Mahomes so far in 2018, which pits himself, Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill against the best defense in the NFL.

If Mahomes puts up points against this Ravens defense — in cold weather at that — I will believe Mahomes can put up points against any team, especially when it gets colder in the postseason.

2. Insane matchup

With the mentions of Mahomes above, I wanted to shine some light on just how insane this matchup between Mahomes and the Ravens defense is:

Note: the rankings are in parentheses.

In every category in which Mahomes is leading the league or near the top of the league, the Ravens are also at the top of the league.

This is a matchup of the ages and it will be great fun to see if Mahomes can overcome the Ravens defense with players unexpectedly missing from the Chiefs offensive lineup.

Basically, Mahomes has made the NFL look like Madden on rookie mode. With the Ravens defense playing the way it is, and the Chiefs having injuries/odd departures, Madden will be turned up to its all-Madden difficulty on Sunday for Mahomes.

3. Sutton vs rookie QBs

One thing I wanted to find out was how the Chiefs defense has fared against rookie quarterbacks — I’m interested in this because the Chiefs are likely to face rookie Lamar Jackson rather than veteran Joe Flacco.

Of course, John Harbaugh has been quoted as saying he’ll use whichever quarterback gives the Ravens the best chance to win. It could be Flacco, it could be Jackson.

All that said, I think that’s just coach speak coming from Harbaugh and he has no intention of playing Flacco. The Ravens are 3-0 with Jackson and it makes very little sense for the Ravens to pull from the hot hand. I think the Ravens will roll with Jackson until the team starts to struggle.

Regardless, starting Jackson may not be the best idea against the Chiefs who have dominated rookie quarterbacks during the Reid/Sutton era.

4. The Lamar Jackson effect

With Jackson’s style of play, some odd things happen:

On the flip side, they have passed the ball much less than the average team during Jackson’s stint as a starter:

Of course, that leads us to the next question — how has the Chiefs defense fared against quarterback rush attempts in 2018?

Unfortunately, the tools I have at my disposal didn’t have the querying capability to view all quarterbacks against certain teams, but I found another unique stat that shows how the Chiefs have fared against rushing quarterbacks:

My thought is the reason quarterbacks run, is because they don’t have the option or can’t pass on that particular play. 14 games is a large number and so far it’s been proven that you can’t beat Reid’s Chiefs with just the run — you have to also be able to pass too. That’s my hypothesis, at least.

5. Turnovers

The last nugget is about turnovers:

Both the Chiefs and Ravens offenses turn the ball over at nearly the same rate — the difference is on the defensive side of the ball.

The Ravens defense doesn’t take the ball away often, ranking 30th in the NFL in takeaways. This means the Chiefs must take care of the ball on Sunday. The Ravens are 7-5 without taking the ball away often and the Chiefs don’t need to give them any advantage they aren’t accustomed to.

This means Mahomes needs to be patient on Sunday. A forced throw could be the difference between winning and losing.

I also believe the Chiefs defense should look to strip the ball from Jackson when he runs. Jackson is not the same size as the Cam Newton’s of the world. It could be that Jackson puts the ball on the ground on Sunday after trying to extend a run.

The Chiefs are sixth in the NFL in fumbles taken away, so they do have some skill forcing fumbles. It’s definitely an area I’ll be watching on Sunday.

That concludes this week’s edition of chiefStats, what are your keys to the game?

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