Publicly, the Ravens have admitted it’s hard not to view Monday’s game against the Chiefs as a game with normal expectations. A few have also said they’re viewing it as simply another statement game.
But it’s clear to everyone around the league Monday’s game isn’t just another Week 3 matchup, even if it takes place on Monday Night Football.
When the 2-0 Chiefs come to M&T Bank Stadium to take on the 2-0 Ravens, more is on the line than just a fast start to the season against a conference rival.
“I think there’s a good understanding that...I guess you can say...Similar to the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens rivalry, I guess, in the 2010s, or something like that, or late 2000s,” tackle Orlando Brown Jr. said. “Just, kind of, that type of feel and that type of atmosphere for those games. Obviously, they’re the reigning Super Bowl champs. They beat us the last two years. They’ve got Patrick Mahomes. We’ve got Lamar.”
To put the matchup on the shoulders of two starting quarterbacks alone, Mahomes and Jackson, seems as if it would be a bit too narrow-minded.
But it wouldn’t be incorrect to do so, either.
Mahomes, the winner of the league’s 2018 MVP award, is one of the most dynamic talents in the league and, at 25-years old, already has a Super Bowl title under his belt. Jackson, winner of the league’s 2019 MVP award, ran wild a year ago as the Ravens posted one of the best offensive seasons in NFL history.
They’re two of the most marketable players in the NFL and, as young as they are, appear to be on a crash course for years of wildly entertaining matchups.
“Mahomes just signed for 10 years — whatever — 500 million, and (he’s an) MVP quarterback," Humphrey said. "And then we have Lamar. MVP, and he’ll be a Raven for life. So, with those two teams, I think when the NFL is picking out the schedule, they’ll always find a way to keep these two teams going at each other. When those two quarterbacks are on the field, it’s magic on both sides.”
In the two matchups between the Chiefs and Ravens with Jackson and Mahomes at the controls, the Chiefs won an overtime thriller in 2018 and staved off a Ravens comeback in 2019.
Baltimore and Kansas City never met in the playoffs, as Tennessee went through Baltimore — and had a double-digit lead over Mahomes — before Kansas City took over and rode the momentum to a Super Bowl victory a year ago.
Now, the Ravens will get their shot against the Chiefs at home.
“It’s not something that I’m losing sleep over, but it’s definitely a team that we know we need to beat,” tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “And if we want to be champions, this is one of those teams that you have to get past. You have to play your best ball. I think we all understand that we can’t afford to make mistakes. We have to be at our best, and anything less will come up with the results we’ve had in the past.”
Of course, there are other massive matchups that will decide which team moves to 3-0 and which team falls to 2-1: How can the Ravens handle the speed of the Chiefs receivers? Can the Chiefs’ front seven handle the speed and physicality of the Ravens’ rushing attack? Can the Ravens’ young linebackers withstand the pressure of the underneath passing attack by Mahomes?
Surely, those questions will be answered Monday night.
With a 3-0 record, and the tiebreaker, on the line in a playoff system suddenly with only one bye week, it’s certainly not just another game to play.
And the optics of Monday, with Mahomes and Jackson slugging it out for 60 minutes, will leave no impression that Monday’s contest is simply another game.
“But with Mahomes, as good as he is in the pocket, he’s just as good — probably better — outside the pocket, which is the craziest thing about his game,” Humphrey said. “So, preparing for him, it’s really tough. You can’t really say any team has really just been able to just stop him completely. He’s never really out of a game...I trust in “Wink” in whatever gameplan he’s going to have, and we’ll figure it out and get going.”