Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs
Baltimore: The Ravens come off an extended break after beating the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football last week, and get a Chiefs team returning home after getting trounced by the Chargers. The Chiefs only win has come against the Saints, which a month ago would have seemed like quite the feat, but with the Saints losing to anyone and everyone, that lone win doesn’t look very impressive.
The new high-flying version of the Ravens put the ball in the hands of Joe Flacco and are allowing him to make more decisions, run a no-huddle offense, and throw the ball far more than he has in the past. Flacco is 3rd behind just Drew Brees and Peyton Manning for passing yardage, averaging 317 yards per game. Flacco will have a tougher time building on that on the road against a Chiefs team that ranks a stout 11th against the pass. But Flacco is playing so well, you wouldn’t consider benching him even against the toughest pass defenses in the league if you’ve been using him as your starter.
If you’re not benching Flacco, that means his receivers are also probably in for good games. Torrey Smith is the type of receiver that can get behind the Chiefs secondary and take the top off the coverage. This should be one of the bigger games for Smith, and a score is likely. Anquan Boldin had 9 catches for 131 yards last week, but he will be hard pressed to come close to those numbers this week, as the Chiefs secondary matches up better physically than the Browns did. Another player that should get back on track is Dennis Pitta, as the Chiefs have shown they’ve had issues with better than average TEs.
And of course there’s Ray Rice… expect a bounce back game of sorts from him, as the Chiefs rank in the bottom third of the league at 21st against the rush, allowing 118 yards per game. With the sheer volume of work Rice gets, he should be good for at least 100 total yards and a score.
Good Start: QB Joe Flacco, RB Ray Rice, WR Torrey Smith
Middle of the Road: WR Anquan Boldin, TE Dennis Pitta
Bad Start: WR Jacoby Jones, TE Ed Dickson
Kansas City: Once again, Matt Cassel looked simply terrible for most of a game, before finally turning it on and salvaging his fantasy day with garbage time yards and a score when the game was well out of hand. Now, there’s hinting by the coaching staff that Cassel may be replaced with Brady Quinn if he continues to struggle. What’s with sudden trend of calling for jettisoned ex-Broncos QBs anyhow? Quinn, Tim Tebow, and Kyle Orton are all hearing their names clamored for after starter struggles. Don’t you think if these guys were actually worth starting, the Broncos would have held on to them? But I digress…
One thing that’s good for the Chiefs passing game is Dwayne Bowe. Even as Cassel struggles, he still manages to throw the ball a lot of times in the general vicinity of his best receiving weapon. In the Chiefs passing game, the value begins and ends with Bowe, who’s averaging over 12 targets a game.
Of all the RBs coming back from ACL tears, Jamaal Charles to me looks most like the one that’s truly back. That makes sense, since the other two (Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall) were hurt at the end of the 2011 season, while Charles suffered his injury in Week 2. Charles doesn’t look quite as fast he used to, but he’s still faster than 90% of the defenders out there and is rolling up yardage huge chunks at a time. The Ravens defense isn’t quite as good as their reputation, ranking 13th against the run. Charles is still a start here.
Good Start: RB Jamaal Charles, WR Dwayne Bowe
Middle of the Road: None
Bad Start: QB Matt Cassel, WR Dexter McCluster, WR Jonathan Baldwin, TE Tony Moeaki