Speaking of rushing teams, the 2020 Baltimore Ravens set the bar for rushing success. Will Lamar Jackson return to his MVP form?
The Kansas City Chiefs will face another AFC North opponent in Week 2, traveling to M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
It was not long ago that the Ravens were the top threat to the Chiefs. Quarterback Lamar Jackson set the NFL on fire during his 2019 MVP campaign, leading the Ravens to the top-scoring offense that year. Ever since losing to the Tennessee Titans in the 2019 playoffs, the Ravens have seemed vulnerable.
Baltimore still earned an 11-5 record in 2020, but lost again in the divisional round.
Jackson led the Ravens in rushing yards in 2020, and may well do it again in 2021. Opponents dared the Ravens to throw the ball, with mixed success. Baltimore was last in the league in passing yards, but Jackson still placed seventh in QBR.
The receiving corps really limited the passing game, but that may not be the case in 2021. With the additions of wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Rashod Bateman, the Ravens locked up their top three receivers. If Watkins and Bateman can recover from training camp injury concerns, the Ravens may have a complete receiving attack.
Do not forget about tight end Mark Andrews, who has led the Ravens in targets since 2019. His 12 red-zone touchdowns are tied with Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce for the most amongst tight ends.
While the trade of tackle Orlando Brown Jr. left many fans and analysts scratching their heads, Baltimore’s offensive line is far from a weakness. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is amongst the best in the league, joined by guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Alejandro Villenueva.
The offense will not change in a single season, as head coach John Harbaugh looks to pound the rock in Baltimore. Look for the run-first, pass-second approach to stick around.
What about against Kansas City?
The primary concern is the Chiefs defending the run. Despite their ranking in 2020, the defense still stopped the run when it matters most. The Chiefs beat the Ravens 34-20 in 2020, holding Jackson to 97 yards passing and a 31.9 QBR. While the running game still racked up 158 yards, the Ravens did not score on the ground all game.
If the Chiefs want to win this early-season matchup, the defense will have to step up once again, and force Jackson and the Ravens to beat them through the air.