Mahomes has played Lamar Jackson’s Ravens well. But Chiefs must guard against the run

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Lamar Jackson is 30-8 as a starting quarterback in the NFL but 0-3 against the Chiefs, with a loss to KC in each of his three years with Baltimore. What will it take for the Ravens to reverse their fortunes Sunday night?

Jackson’s first two games against the Chiefs, both at Arrowhead Stadium, were nail-biters. Last season, the first time Patrick Mahomes and Jackson met at M&T Bank Stadium, the Chiefs won easily. Both men are former NFL MVPs.

Sunday will be different. It’s the Ravens’ home opener, for one thing. And how about this: Mahomes has a better record as a starter on the road (21-4) than at home (18-4) in the regular season.

“It’s not about me and Mahomes,” Jackson said Wednesday. “Not to me. Probably to everyone else. But it’s the Ravens versus the Kansas City Chiefs.”

Sure thing, Lamar. Anyway, here’s how this latest installment in the Mahomes-Jackson rivalry (yeah, we’re calling it that) might unfold.

When the Chiefs pass

Mahomes’ career statistics for September are wild: 11-0, 35 touchdowns, no interceptions.

Two of those victories were against the Ravens. In his three games against Baltimore, Mahomes has thrown for nine touchdowns with just one pick, averaging 379 yards through the air. The Ravens like to pressure; the Chiefs have been able to defeat it.

KC’s new offensive line must come up big Sunday night. Last week, Mahomes turned a good day into a great one with fourth-quarter TD passes to Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Look for the Chiefs to find more variety in Mahomes’ targets at Baltimore (Hill and Kelce accounted for 22 of Mahomes’ 36 targets last weekend).

The Raiders’ Derek Carr went for 435 against Baltimore last week.

Edge: Chiefs

When the Chiefs run

The Chiefs’ running game wasn’t as effective as they wanted against Cleveland — they ran for 73 yards as a team. Clyde Edwards-Helaire accounted for just 43. Their longest run was 9 yards and Mahomes’ had their lone rushing touchdown against the Browns.

The Chiefs’ ground game figures to improve as their new offensive line settles in. But it may take a while.

Edge: Ravens

When the Ravens pass

It took three quarters, but the Chiefs finally got pressure on Baker Mayfield last week and that helped change the course of the game. Chris Jones was superb in the second half. But defending the NFL’s most dangerous quarterback-rusher is a different task. Defenders must stay in their gaps and can’t take chances.

The Raiders sacked Jackson three times Monday night. He passed for 235 yards and one TD. Former Chief Sammy Watkins is a talented veteran and Mark Andrews has developed into one of the league’s top tight ends. Notable: When Jackson attempts at least 30 passes, as he did against the Raiders, the Ravens are 4-5.

Edge: Chiefs

When the Ravens run

The Ravens’ running backs group has been devastated by injuries, but it’s Jackson who makes their ground game go. He ran for 86 yards against the Raiders.

The Chiefs had trouble containing Cleveland’s Nick Chubb, who rumbled for 83 yards, averaging 5.5 per carry. The Browns rushed for 153 as a team. The Chiefs like their defensive tackle rotation of Derrick Nnadi, Jarran Reed, Turk Wharton and Khalen Saunders, but they have to do better than that.

Edge: Ravens

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