Ravens Game Preview: Can Chiefs Go 4-0?

The Chiefs are certainly due for a let down and if Priest Holmes is unable to play on Sunday due to a hip-flexor, Trent Green and company must step up. The Baltimore Ravens impose a mighty challenge for the Chiefs. It's a challenge that might determine how much of a contender punch Kansas City has in them.

This game has all the makings of an upset. It's the kind of game the Chiefs always seem to lose. But the game plan is very simple. If the Chiefs score quickly, the Ravens with a weak passing game will lose. If the Ravens control the clock and Jamal Lewis runs for 150 – 200 yards, the Chiefs will lose.

Trent Green has been anything but stellar the first three weeks of the season. He's thrown five interceptions and only three touchdown passes. Green has been fortunate that his interceptions have not cost the team any wins yet. They stand 3-0 primarily due to the efforts of Priest Holmes, Dante Hall and the defense.

The Ravens are 2-1 on the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers ripped Baltimore on opening day but the Ravens have won their last two games over the Cleveland Browns and the hapless San Diego Chargers.

Lewis has been the star of the Ravens offense. In fact, he's their entire offense. He leads the NFL in rushing. He's not a complete back like Holmes. He has more power but Lewis is not much of a pass catching threat.

The Chiefs defense will consistantly put eight players in the box in hopes of stuffing the run. Lewis has the ability to make teams pay for implementing such a defensive alignment. So the Chiefs will have to fill their gaps to prevent Lewis from breaking out for long runs.

The Browns tried that in week two and Lewis ran for 295 yards. Lewis is primarily a north and south runner but he has the ability to cutback and change directions with ease. But the Ravens failures on offense this season can be attributed to their rookie quarterback, Kyle Boller.

The former California Bear signal caller came out of nowhere his senior year to become a first round NFL draft pick in 2003. Ravens head coach Brian Billick made it very clear that Boller would start the season as their starter. An offense genius, Billick has won a Super Bowl without a passing game in the past, so there is no reason he can't do it again.

But Boller is not Trent Dilfer. Still despite his quirky arm delivery he can get the ball down field. If he can use the play action effectively, then the Ravens wide receivers could become a factor in this game.

The only real threat on offense besides Lewis is tight end Todd Heap. He's been compared to the Chiefs Tony Gonzalez. But he's only averaging about five yards per catch.

The Ravens signed two free agent wide receivers in former Arizona Cardinal Frank Sanders and former Chicago Bear Marcus Robinson but neither has been able to be productive in the Ravens offense. Travis Taylor can be a game breaker but he's had a case of the drops. If he can stretch the field on Sunday, the Chiefs secondary could be in for a long day.

Both Greg Wesley and William Bartee are battling injuries. Wesley with his sore back will be limited on Sunday and Bartee, if active, will line up in the nickel package provided his ankle is recovered. Jerome Woods needs to return to the safety position as he was burned badly last week on a play action pass that the Texans converted for a touchdown.

In order for the Chiefs to win against the Ravens, they must put pressure on Boller. They need to take advantage of his inexperience and keep him in the pocket or flat on his back. Boller tends to leave the ball exposed when he throws. Instead of keeping the ball tucked in his chest before he throws, Boller tends to have his arm already extended and ready to throw thus exposing the football.

If that trend continues on Sunday, then Vonnie Holliday and Eric Hicks need to go for the ball. The Chiefs defense has been stellar in getting turnovers this season. With eight players on the line of scrimmage, the linebackers will be key for a Chiefs victory. Shawn Barber, Mike Maslowski and Scott Fujita need to prevent Lewis from penetrating the secondary.

By design last Sunday, the Chiefs only rushed four defenders. But that won't work with the Ravens this weekend. They have a decent offensive line and if they can give Boller enough time, then he can find his receivers. The Chiefs must attack on defense especially if the offense comes strong out of the box. They have to remember the Ravens are ranked dead last in passing offense.

For the Chiefs to win, Green must find a passing rhythm early in the game. Tony Gonzalez should be very effective against the Ravens 3-4 defense. Unless they put cornerback Chris McAlister on him all game long, no one can cover him. Teams have been holding, biting and scratching Gonzalez at the line of scrimmage so he'll have to get off the line much quicker. Look for the Chiefs to put him in motion.

With the hip injury to Priest Holmes in practice on Thursday, back-up running backs Derrick Blaylock and Larry Johnson might be asked to carry a larger load this week. If that's the case, then the emphasis needs to be on the pass. Holmes can't carry the load by himself and Green needs to step up his game on Sunday. Without a strong performance by Green, the Chiefs will not leave Baltimore undefeated.

The Chiefs are not taking the Ravens lightly nor are they looking ahead to the Broncos game the following weekend. But if Holmes can't play on Sunday, the Chiefs need to be aggressive and do the same things on defense and on special teams to score points like they've done the first three weeks of the season.

If the Chiefs can overcome the potential loss of Holmes for at least one week win their second consecutive road game, then they'll make another statement to the rest of the NFL.

Nick's Notes

* Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis made 10 solo tackles last week against the Chargers. Last year Lewis was hurt and missed the second half of the season. He still managed to get 69 tackles.

* This will be a homecoming for Chiefs running back Priest Holmes. The Ravens signed Holmes as an un-drafted free agent. Holmes played for the Ravens for three years before coming to the Chiefs in 2001.

*Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller has thrown for 328 yards this season but has completed only 41 of 81 passes.

* Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister has returned from his one game suspension. He was disciplined last weekend for missing team meetings.

*With a Chiefs victory against the Ravens, Kansas City can go 4-0 for the second time in franchise history. They last did it in 1996 but failed to make the playoffs.

Fearless Prediction : Baltimore 17 – Chiefs 10

Season Record : 3-0

2003 Game Recaps

Week #1: Chiefs 27 - Chargers 14

Week #2: Chiefs 41 - Steelers 20

Week #3: Chiefs 42 – Texans 14


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