Ravens vs. Chiefs

December 10, 2006|By [JAMISON HENSLEY] | [JAMISON HENSLEY],Sun Reporter

Today, 1 p.m. -- Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.-- Ch. 13 -- 1090 AM, 97.9 FM -- Line: Chiefs by 2 1/2

Ravens run offense vs. Chiefs run defense

Ravens running back Jamal Lewis continues to run hard but has yet to consistently wear down defenses. He has eclipsed 100 yards once in his past 14 games. Although Kansas City allowed 150 rushing yards against the Cleveland Browns, the Chiefs have usually been stout. Kansas City has limited three of its past four opponents to less than 4 yards a carry. The Ravens' best chance to establish a run game is attacking the edges against Chiefs defensive ends Tamba Hali and Jared Allen, who are better pass rushers than run stoppers. Kansas City has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 21 straight home games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Edge: Chiefs

Ravens pass offense vs. Chiefs pass defense

The Chiefs mainly play a cover-two defense, which means they play both safeties deep to prevent big plays. But that leaves them vulnerable over the middle - especially to tight ends - because linebacker Kawika Mitchell is a liability in pass coverage. Kansas City has allowed six touchdowns to tight ends this season, which could signal a big day for Todd Heap. In six games with coach Brian Billick as the play-caller, quarterback Steve McNair has averaged 230 yards passing. He has thrown seven touchdowns and two interceptions during that time. The Ravens have given up 16 sacks, fourth fewest in the league.

Edge: Ravens

Chiefs run offense vs. Ravens run defense

This matches the NFL's second-leading rusher against the league's second-best run defense. Chiefs running back Larry Johnson has topped 100 yards in six of his last seven starts, averaging 136.4 yards over that span. While Johnson has never faced the Ravens, he has hammered some tough defenses, going over 100 yards twice against Denver and once against San Diego. This should be his toughest challenge of the season. The Ravens have not allowed a 100-yard rusher this season with linebacker Ray Lewis in the lineup. The past three featured backs to face the Ravens - Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson, Pittsburgh's Willie Parker and Atlanta's Warrick Dunn - each failed to gain more than 52 yards.

Edge: Even

Chiefs pass offense vs. Ravens pass defense

The Chiefs have transformed into a run-heavy offense, throwing fewer than 23 passes in three of their past five games. But Trent Green is coming off his best game since returning from a severe concussion, throwing for 297 yards and four touchdowns last Sunday against the Browns. The Ravens haven't allowed a quarterback to pass for more than234 yards against them in five games. Unlike Cincinnati, Kansas City doesn't have legitimate deep threats at receiver, which will allow the Ravens to play man coverage and blitz more often. The Chiefs' best weapon in the passing game is tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Edge: Ravens

Special teams

With return specialist B.J. Sams done for the season with a broken ankle, the Ravens have turned to starting receiver Mark Clayton on punt returns and undrafted rookie Cory Ross on kickoff returns. Ross looked shaky in fielding kicks early in the week. The Chiefs have one of the NFL's most dangerous returners in Dante Hall, who holds a share of the record for the longest kickoff return ever against the Ravens (a 97-yard touchdown in 2003). In what could be a defensive-minded game, the Chiefs have the advantage in punting with Dustin Colquitt, who's fifth in the NFL in average (45.1 yards).

Edge: Chiefs

Intangibles

The Chiefs are 20-1 at Arrowhead Stadium in December since 1995, but their 3-5 record against AFC opponents this year makes them look suspect. The Ravens know how to deal with the noise, having won at the deafening Superdome. Not only do the Ravens play better after an extended rest, but they are 28-14 after a loss since 2000 (tied for second-best in the NFL). This game has playoff repercussions for both teams, so neither has an edge in motivation.

Edge: Ravens

Prediction

Winning in Kansas City is a challenge, but facing the Ravens' defense is becoming more daunting these days. The Ravens' defense had one major lapse in Cincinnati. It won't have any today.

Ravens, 17-9

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