Three potential X factors for Ravens v Chiefs
Heading into the Monday Night Football heavy weight bout between the Baltimore Ravens and the reigning Superbowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the third head-to-head matchup between the last two league MVPs in Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes is the dominating headline.
However, games don’t always come down to outstanding quarterback play. Sometimes it could be decided by a key “X” factors that weren’t talked up as much or at all leading up to the game but could prove to be the difference maker or tipping point in a decisive win in tightly contested game.
Here are three players that could be potential X factors for the Ravens against the Chiefs in Week 3:
DE Calais Campbell
Getting pressure on Mahomes will be key in this matchup but the ability to collapse the pocket up the middle and flush him out of the pocket and disrupt the timing of the Chief’s’ offense will be crucial. The five-time Pro Bowler is one of the best interior pass rushers not only on the Ravens’ roster but in the entire league.
He’s was Baltimore’s prize acquisition of the entire offseason and has made significant impacts in both of the teams wins to start the season. Against the Cleveland Browns in the season opener, he didn’t record a sack but impacted the passing game by leading the team in pass deflections with three that included two batted down at the line of scrimmage and one tipped ball in coverage that was corralled for the defense’s first takeaway of the season. He was very active for a second week in a row against the Houston Texans on the road and recorded five tackles including one for loss and his first sack both of the 2020 season and as a Raven.
Campbell will be counted on to not only perform well individually on Monday night in primetime but he will be looked to by his fellow defenders and young players on both sides of the ball as a veteran leader and tone-setter on the field and the sideline to keep spirits and energy levels up. A fun matchup to watch for in this game will be when Campbell finds himself in one-on-one situations with former Ravens Kelechi Osemele who is the Chiefs’ starting left guard and performing well thus far this season.
CB Marcus Peters
Generating an interior pass rush isn’t the only key to success for the Ravens on the defensive side of the ball in this matchup. Turnovers are always important and emphasized but, in this game, avoiding them on offense and getting them on defense will be paramount.
No player has been better at taking the ball away than from opposing offense since he entered the league in 2015 as a first-round pick out of the University of Washington than Ravens First-Team All-Pro corner.
He began his career with the team he’ll be facing for the second time as an adversary on Monday Night Football since they traded him to the Los Angeles Rams in 2018 and will be looking to make them pay for their folly again by getting the ball back in the hands of his offense like he did when the Chiefs and the Rams produced an instant classic in his first season in Los Angeles.
Peters leads the NFL in interceptions since he entered the league by a mile with 28 picked off passes in six years. He recorded his first of the 2020 season with an amazing diving play he made on a ball thrown by Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson where he came off the check-down option on the play and made an incredibly athletic catch that he fully extended and laid out for.
Look for Peters who looks like he’s gambling at times but is really making educated guesses based of his instincts and copious amounts of film study to try to make a game-changing or momentum-swinging play by intercepting or breaking up a pass from Mahomes to one of his intended targets even if it was not who he was originally covering at the start of any given play.
K Justin Tucker
Ever since Jackson took over the reins as the starting quarterback and especially during his MVP winning campaign last season, the Ravens haven’t been in nearly as many nail bitters during the regular season. That means that they haven’t had to rely as heavily on the leg of their future Hall of Fame kicker as they have in years past when their offense wasn’t nearly as potent or explosive.
Nevertheless, Tucker has come through when they have needed him to drill a game-winner through the uprights. He did it twice last season with the first time coming against Baltimore’s bitter division rival Pittsburg Steelers on the road in Week Five to secure a decisive 26-23 win on overtime and the other instance came in Week 13 to beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-20 during a rain-drenched slugfest.
Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history with a 90.9 career field goal percentage, has been Mr. AuTuckmatic from short and long-distance throughout his nine-year career, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-2010’a Team.
The Chiefs have a clutch kicker of their own in Harrison Butker who was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week Two after going 3/3 on his field goal attempts in another come from behind win including the game-winner that he nailed from 58 yards out in overtime. As impressive as Butker has been to start his career, Tucker is still the gold standard and the model of consistency.
These two strong-legged and deadly accurate specialists could prove to be the difference in the game on Monday Night Football in front of a nationally televised audience. However, Tucker is playing on his home field, knows the turf in M&T Bank better than anyone, and has more ice in his veins than Jake Frost himself so my money is on the four-time First-Team All-Pro if it comes down to a battle between the two kickers.