Force of nature meets momentum breakers
Mahomes and high-flying Chiefs in intriguing clash with stingy Ravens
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.