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Ravens-Chiefs Week 14: Three Key Matchups

December 7, 2018
WHO: Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)
WHERE: Arrowhead Stadium
WHEN: Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, 1 p.m. EST

The Ravens' top-ranked defense and the high-flying Chiefs offense square off in one of the most intriguing matchups of Week 14. The Ravens are coming off a  26-16 win against Atlanta in which the defense suffocated quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense, while rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens' resurgent ground game topped 200 rushing yards for the third straight week.

As the Ravens try to pull off the upset in Kansas City and move closer to a playoff spot, here are three key matchups to watch: 

Ravens RB Gus Edwards vs. Chiefs ILB Anthony Hitchens

The Ravens have found something with their ground-and-pound, ball control offense led by Jackson and Edwards, the undrafted rookie who has burst onto the scene over the past month. In Jackson's three starts, the 240-pound Edwards has averaged 105 rushing yards, primarily with no-nonsense, north-south running between the tackles. 

The Ravens would love to copy the script they used in Atlanta Dec. 2, as they mounted three consecutive drives of at least 10 plays in the second half and relegated Ryan to spectator status for long stretches.

Hitchens, who signed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Chiefs this past offseason after four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, leads the Chiefs in tackles with 96, including six for loss. But the Chiefs rank 22nd in rushing defense (122.0 yards per game), and they allow 5.07 yards per carry, the second-highest average in the league. 

Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey or CB Jimmy Smith vs. Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill

Humphrey and Smith were sensational against the Falcons last week, holding All-Pro receiver Julio Jones to two catches for 18 yards. One or the other figures to draw the assignment on Hill, but Humphrey has missed practice this week with a groin injury, and any limitation is going to be an issue against the dynamic Hill. Humphrey's status for the game is unclear. 

Hill has 66 catches for 1,119 yards and 11 touchdowns this year, and he leads the league in catches of at least 20 yards (22) and catches of at least 40 yards (six). Ravens defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale calls Hill "the fastest human being I've ever seen wear a helmet." Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Hill are capable of hitting a big play on virtually every snap. 

Ravens TBA vs. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce

The Ravens haven't tipped their hand as to how they will try to defend Kelce. They have consistently had trouble covering tight ends, and Kelce represents another challenge entirely. Do the Ravens try to cover him with a safety such as Chuck Clark, who is likely to start in place of Tony Jefferson? Or, with Kelce often splitting out wide, might they have one of their bigger defensive backs such as Smith follow him? There are no easy answers.

Kelce has 79 catches for 1,082 yards and nine touchdowns, and the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder has the size and speed to be a matchup problem for just about anyone. "I think you just try to ... limit the big plays that he makes," Martindale said, "because he's playing at such a high level right now." Over the last five games, he's been targeted an average of 11 times.

PREDICTION

This represents the stiffest challenge of the season for the Ravens' top-rated defense and for rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is expected to make his fourth straight start. The Ravens will try to pound the ball on the ground, which has been a winning formula to date with Jackson, and the Chiefs' run defense is susceptible to that. But they are so dangerous offensively, and they have the edge at home. A gimpy Marlon Humphrey doesn't help. Chiefs 30, Ravens 20.

Follow Bo on Twitter @bsmolka

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox