Week 14 Preview: Ravens face huge test in Kansas City

Ravens top-ranked defense faces Chiefs No. 1 offense.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens rookie Lamar Jackson is still developing as a quarterback, picking up different nuances each game.

This week, he will face an entirely different challenge in Arrowhead Stadium.

Crowd noise is expected to be a factor with his play-calling.

"Those guys might have to read my lips sometimes,” he said. “I heard Kansas City will be very loud. I’m going to have to do my job, probably try to speak up as much as I could to those guys. [It’ll be a] team effort in the huddle.”

Jackson is poised to make his fourth consecutive start Week 14 against the Chiefs with Joe Flacco still limited with a hip injury. The former Heisman Trophy winner has led the Ravens to three straight victories and has gained the confidence of his teammates.

The Ravens running game has also thrived with Jackson as the starter, averaging 239 yards per game. Baltimore has also dominated time of possession, which has kept opposing offenses off the field and its own defense fresh.

This will be key against the high-flying Chiefs, who have the league’s top-ranked offense and average 37 points per game. The Ravens defense has been equally impressive and have given up the fewest points and yards in the NFL.

The Ravens defenders dismissed the significance of that statistical matchup. Instead, they are just focused on winning the game and maintaining their position as the sixth and final wild card team in the AFC.

“We’re just trying to give our team the best chance to win and play great defense,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We just have to be fundamentally sound, play great technique, communicate, play our rules and don’t get enamored with the formations, with the shifts, with the different plays that they may do. Just play our game, do what we do best, and let the chips fall where they be.”

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is also excited about playing in the venerable Arrowhead Stadium. The game is another critical step toward ending a three-year playoff drought. Baltimore currently holds the sixth and final wild card position in the AFC.

"It's a great environment," Harbaugh said about Arrowhead Stadium. "It's one of those environments you love going into in this league. It's what you do this job for. Yes, it's an awesome place to play. It'll be loud, they'll be into it (if) their team is winning. This'll be a big game. We're looking forward to that. That's something that you really kind of relish."

SERIES HISTORY

Eighth regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead 4-3. The Ravens are 3-0 (including playoffs) at Arrowhead Stadium. Two of those victories have come under head coach John Harbaugh.

BY THE NUMBERS

105 – Rushing first downs gained by the Ravens’ offense, which ranks No. 1 in the NFL.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT

-- RB Kenneth Dixon. The third-year player was activated from injured reserve prior to the Week 13 game against the Atlanta Falcons. He finished with eight carries for 37 yards. He could play a bigger role this week behind rookie Gus Edwards. Dixon was placed on IR on Sept. 12 after leading the team with 13 carries for 44 yards and one rushing touchdown against Buffalo. Dixon has seen action in 14 games for the Ravens after originally being selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.

GAME PLAN

Rookie Lamar Jackson will face his biggest test if Joe Flacco (hip) is not cleared to play. Jackson has led the Ravens to victories in the last three games against the Bengals, Raiders and Falcons. The Chiefs, however, are a more formidable challenge. The Ravens will pound the ball against Kansas City’s run defense that is ranked 22nd, allowing 122 yards per game. The Ravens will also take more shots deep downfield with receivers John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead to keep the Chiefs from stacking the box. However, the Ravens running attack will be crucial to this game to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field.

Baltimore has the league’s No. 1 overall defense but it will face perhaps its biggest challenge of the season. The high-flying Kansas City Chiefs lead the NFL with 37 points per game and the Ravens are not built to get into a shootout with them. As a result, Baltimore’s resurgent running can once again help the defense. This kept the team’s defenders fresh to make big plays and close out three straight victories. Kansas City’s running attack suffered a blow with the release of starter Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs re-signed running back Charcandrick West for depth. Baltimore will look to shut down that ground attack and make Kansas City one dimensional by throwing the ball against its talented secondary.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Ravens RB Gus Edwards vs. Chiefs LB Anthony Hitchens

The Ravens have run for more than 200 yards in each of the last three games. Edwards has led the charge. The undrafted rookie from Rutgers had two consecutive 100-yard performances before finishing with 82 yards on 21 carries against the Falcons. Edwards has taken over the starting job for Alex Collins, who was placed on IR with an injured foot. Hitchens leads the Chiefs with 60 tackles. He will be busy this game with the Ravens trying to set the tone on the ground.

Ravens secondary vs. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and WR Tyreek Hill.

Mahomes has been one of the most dynamic players in the league, throwing for 3,923 yards with 41 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Hill is one of his favorite targets and has 66 receptions for 1,119 yards with 11 touchdowns. The Chiefs will want to score early and often to make the Ravens play from behind. The onus will be on cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Marlon Humphrey and Brandon Carr to shut down that passing attack. Safeties Eric Weddle, Chuck Carr and perhaps Tony Jefferson, if he is available to play, will provide support.

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