Force of na­ture meets mo­men­tum break­ers

Ma­homes and high-fly­ing Chiefs in in­trigu­ing clash with st­ingy Ravens

Sport360 - - Nfl - By Dan Gil­lott @Sport360 ✉ ed­i­to­[email protected]

The Chiefs’ high-oc­tane of­fence comes up against the NFL’s topranked de­fence Sun­day when the Bal­ti­more Ravens visit Kansas City with an NFL play­off berth at stake.

It’s just one game with play­off im­pli­ca­tions this week, with the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots and New Or­leans Saints out to clinch di­vi­sion ti­tles with vic­to­ries.

The Los An­ge­les Charg­ers need a win, and a few more re­sults to fall their way, to secure a post-sea­son spot and the murky NFC East should be­come clearer as lead­ers Dal­las take on di­vi­sion ri­vals Philadel­phia.

The Chiefs, av­er­ag­ing a league­lead­ing 37 points per game with 23-year-old quar­ter­back Pa­trick Ma­homes at the helm, can punch their post-sea­son ticket with a vic­tory over Bal­ti­more.

The Ravens are look­ing for a win that would strengthen their hold on the sixth and fi­nal play­off spot in the AFC.

Bal­ti­more held the At­lanta Fal­cons to 131 yards total of­fence in a 26-16 vic­tory last week. But they’ll face an even tougher chal­lenge in try­ing to con­tain Ma­homes, who has emerged as a fully-fledged star in his first sea­son as a starter.

Ma­homes leads the NFL with 41 touch­down passes, with New Or­leans’ Drew Brees the next best with 30.

Vet­eran quar­ter­back Joe Flacco con­tin­ues to progress in his re­turn from a hip in­jury, the Ravens are ex­pected to stick with rookie Lamar Jack­son, who has rushed for 265 yards and two touch­downs in his three starts.

But it’s the Ravens de­fence, al­low­ing a league low 17.7 points per game and a st­ingy 281.7 total yards, that will be key.

“We have to go out and play great to have a chance to win this game, let alone stop them,” said Ravens safety Eric Wed­dle. “We can make things tough on them. We can cre­ate turnovers. We can hold them in the red zone. So, those things are ar­eas that we can do, and if we do that, we’ll be suc­cess­ful.”

Pats eye an­other di­vi­sion ti­tle

In Mi­ami, the Dol­phins will be out to de­lay the Pa­tri­ots’ progress to a 10th straight AFC East di­vi­sion ti­tle.

The Pa­tri­ots routed the Dol­phins 38-7 ear­lier this sea­son, but they have found the go­ing tough in re­cent years in Flor­ida, where the Dol­phins have won four of their last five home meetings against the Pats.

“They al­ways seem to play well when they play us down there,” said Pa­tri­ots quar­ter­back Tom Brady, who needs one touch­down pass to break a tie with Pey­ton Man­ning (579) for most in NFL his­tory, play­offs and reg­u­lar-sea­son com­bined.

The Pa­tri­ots are 3-3 on the road this sea­son, suf­fer­ing dou­ble-digit de­feats at Jack­sonville, Detroit and Ten­nessee.

The Dol­phins, mean­while, are 5-1 at home this sea­son and still try­ing to un­seat the Ravens for the fi­nal AFC play­off berth.

The New Or­leans Saints also travel to Flor­ida, aim­ing to bounce back from a sur­prise loss to the Dal­las Cow­boys when they visit the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers.

New Or­leans were held to a sea­son low in points in a 13-10 loss to the Cow­boys that ended their 10game win­ning streak and left them a game be­hind the Los An­ge­les Rams for home field ad­van­tage in the NFC.

NFC North lead­ers Chicago, aim­ing to bounce back from an over­time loss to the New York Gi­ants, hope to have quar­ter­back Mitch Tru­bisky back from a two-game in­jury ab­sence when they host the 11-1 Rams – who can secure a firstround bye with a win over the Bears.

Los An­ge­les’ Charg­ers are also eye­ing a play­off spot as they take a 9-3 record into their clash with the Cincin­nati Ben­gals. They trail the Chiefs by one game in the AFC West and hold a two-game ad­van­tage over the Ravens for the first wild card berth.

Stand and de­liver: Pa­trick Ma­homes faces one the big­gest tests of his young ca­reer against Bal­ti­more.

Mak­ing a run for it: Tom Brady.

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