1. Baltimore Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens come in at No. 1 as the Kansas City Chiefs’ toughest opponent on their 2020 schedule.
Ravens-Chiefs has the makings of the premiere rivalry of this generation. Lamar Jackson vs Patrick Mahomes is this generation’s Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady. Mahomes and the Chiefs have come out on top twice already in this rivalry, but that won’t always be the case.
And look: that’s good. Some AFC team is going to have to knock the Kansas City Chiefs down a peg at some point during the next dozen years. Right now, the best candidate to do that is the Ravens, led by the reigning MVP in Jackson and a strong head coach who already has a Super Bowl ring in John Harbaugh.
Plus, the Ravens match up exceedingly well with the Chiefs. Baltimore has a secondary (including Marcus Peters, an ex-Chief!) that can hold its own with the Chiefs’ Legion of Zoom. Pass-rushers like Matt Judon and Pernell McPhee can give the Chiefs o-line fits. The Ravens used this year’s first-round pick on linebacker Patrick Queen out of LSU, a dude who looks like he can step in pretty early and make a difference.
While the offense may be built around Jackson, it isn’t all about Jackson. He has solid receiving options in tight end Mark Andrews (who led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns in 2020) and big-play wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, who’s entering just his second season. Jackson led the team in rushing with over 1,200 yards last year, but veteran running back Mark Ingram chipped in just over 1,000 while Gus Edwards added a shade over 700.
Let me finish by writing more on Harbaugh. In 2018, it looked like Harbaugh was on his way out of Baltimore. The Ravens had missed the playoffs the past three seasons, and the team was sputtering under the direction of quarterback Joe Flacco. But then Flacco got hurt, and Harbaugh didn’t just hand over the keys to Lamar Jackson. Harbaugh changed the offense to fit Jackson’s strengths.
That’s what made the difference and propelled that 2018 team to finishing 6-1 (the loss coming against the Chiefs) and reaching the playoffs. The Ravens built on the progress to finish last year atop the AFC with a record of 14-2. Sure, the playoffs haven’t been kind to Lamar Jackson, but in time, that will change.
Harbaugh, who for 10 years coached under Andy Reid while both were with the Philadelphia Eagles, now has the unenviable task of stopping Reid and his new team.
But if there’s one team that can stop the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s the Baltimore Ravens.