NFL Preview - Baltimore (3-1) at Kansas City (1-3)|
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Baltimore Ravens have trouble with noise.
But the question that faces the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday when the Ravens
visit Arrowhead Stadium is will they themselves give the home folks enough
reason to get loud?
The visiting Ravens come in for the Week 5 matchup after a grueling first-
month gauntlet in which they played four times -- versus Cincinnati, New
England, Philadelphia and Cleveland -- within 18 days, most recently 10 days
ago against the Browns.
The challenging September did not end without a price.
Several players on a veteran defense, including Ray Lewis, admitted fading
down the stretch against Cleveland after when the Browns' last two passes fell
incomplete in the end zone.
Subsequently, coach John Harbaugh gave his team a weekend off before an
upcoming stretch of three road games in four weeks.
"I know a lot of guys out there were fighting fatigue," safety Ed Reed said.
In Baltimore's only previous road game -- at Philadelphia -- its offense
totaled a season-low 325 yards with two turnovers in a 24-23 loss. In three
games at home, the Ravens averaged 32.7 points and 457 yards with two overall
The decibel level of the Eagles' home crowd short-circuited Joe Flacco and his
offense, and Harbaugh expects more of the same obstacles in Missouri.
"The times we've played there, it's been really loud," he said. "It's one of
the great venues in the NFL. It's a beautiful setting, it's traditional and
it's really, really red. Our guys will have to be ready for that."
The Ravens had little trouble in their last trip to the heartland, winning
30-7 in a 2010 wild-card game when Flacco passed for 265 yards and two
touchdowns. Ray Rice finished with 99 yards from scrimmage and a score and
Baltimore picked off Matt Cassel off three times.
Cassel's struggles have restarted in 2012.
The quarterback has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled three times
himself, accounting for two-thirds of a league-high 15 turnovers. The Chiefs
have been outscored, 77-44, in losing two home games, and have lost six of
seven overall at Arrowhead.
Cassel was intercepted three times last week against San Diego in a 37-20
"It starts with me," he said. "I've got to do a better job of protecting the
football and putting our team in a better situation to be successful."
Nonetheless, coach Romeo Crennel stated without prompting that no quarterback
controversy exists with Cassel and backups Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi.
"We just have to get him to be more consistent," he said.
Carrying goat horns along with Cassel against the Chargers was running back
Jamaal Charles, who fumbled twice, part of a six-turnover team effort. The
Ravens have forced eight turnovers in four games.
On the plus side, Charles has run for 325 yards in his last two games, but
Baltimore has allowed 2.4 yards per carry in its last two.
For the Ravens on offense, Flacco has completed 28 passes in each of his past
two games for a combined 738 yards. Among the targets, Torrey Smith caught 12
balls for 224 yards, while Anquan Boldin had 13 for 179 yards. Kansas City has
allowed 10 passing TDs, tied for second-most in the league.
On the ground, Rice is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and had 108 yards on 19
attempts in his only regular-season game against the Chiefs, in 2009. In that
game, Flacco passed for 307 yards with three TDs.
The Chiefs lead the all-time regular-season series, 3-2, though Baltimore won
a 38-24 home verdict when the teams last played during the season in September
The last time the in-season matchup took place in Kansas City in 2006, the
Ravens won, 20-10. Baltimore's John Harbaugh is 2-0 in his career against the
Chiefs, while Kansas City's Romeo Crennel is 3-5 against the Ravens.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
In addition to ear-splitting ambiance, the Chiefs' best opportunity to halt
Baltimore's no-huddle prowess most likely lies on the two churning legs of
Charles. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is most often thought of as a dynamic
speedster rather than a powerhouse, but in the one game this season where he
exceeded 30 carries -- in Week 3 against New Orleans -- he turned in a season-
best 233 yards. His effectiveness in forcing the Ravens to collapse on him
will also enable the play-action fakes of Cassel, which could result in big
plays. Charles had 82 rush yards on nine carries, including a 41-yard TD run,
in the post-2010 wild-card game against Baltimore.
Is Charles a potential game-changer this week? Yes. Could he make a slumping
Cassel more effective? Yes. Therefore, is an upset possible? Yes. But all that
said, the Kansas City defense has been suspect enough in three losses --
surrendering combined 112 points to Atlanta, Buffalo and San Diego - to tip
the scales toward an effective and rested Ravens unit producing just enough to
get it done.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ravens 30, Chiefs 20
10/04 12:22:03 ET