Well, we are off to a strong start. The early weeks of the season can be very difficult to handicap and we are sticking with a pretty conservative approach for Week 2. Last week I loved the Eagles to win big outright and that game was essentially over at the half and the 49ers destroyed Detroit for three quarters before allowing that to get dangerously close to a back-door cover for Lions betters. But where we had the line on Friday it still worked.
It's worth noting that road teams fared very well last week but I'm not ready to go crazy with that as a trend that will hold. But in the case of the two games I like the most this week, I am going with a road favorite to cover against a familiar opponent who they have had a significant amount of recent success against.
Even when the Ravens roster has been at full strength in recent years, the Chiefs have been their Kryptonite. Last year in prime time, Kansas City came into Baltimore and whacked the Ravens for four quarters. That, of course, was without fans and it will be crazy in Baltimore on Sunday night, but this is also not the Ravens team we have become accustomed to.
The injuries along the offensive line are significant, they are without their best blocking tight end, they are without any running backs who have vast experience in this unique scheme and they may have to seriously cut back on the amount of QB options and designed mesh point option running plays they run. Lamar Jackson was able to attempt only two passes last week that traveled more than 20 yards in the air in large part due to the offensive line's significant issues, particularly the tackles. Those could be even more acute now with All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley missing practice all week and facing a potentially lengthy absence.
The Ravens failed to win the time-of-possession battle against the Raiders last week and they are facing an even more potent offense this week and a better all-around opponent. I'm not sure how the Ravens block Chris Jones, even if they try to chip him and he could line up against either tackle and feast. Probably either guard as well. The Chiefs will take away tight end Mark Andrews as many teams have done against the Ravens in big games and I just don't see enough supplementary weapons or enough pass protection help for the Ravens to keep pace in this game.
The best bet to keep it close might be goading Andy Reid into trying to run the ball against dime packages, but one thing we do know is that when Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale blitzes like crazy against Patrick Mahomes, he pays the price, as Mahomes carves this defense up. I have serious concerns about Baltimore's ability to rush the passer or protect the passer and this seems to me like catching the wrong team at the wrong time.
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The Patriots have a good feel for what they have in Mac Jones and will continue to put the rookie quarterback in high-percentage situations where he can win in the passing game. There aren't any major pass-rush concerns with the Jets and New York looked like an ugly operation for the better part of its game against Carolina last week. Yes, New England lost to Miami but it was a close game and I have a hard time seeing Bill Belichick not taking care of business against a rookie quarterback who is lacking some key pieces on the offensive line.
Last week I tried to focus on games where the mismatch in the trenches looked the most acute and this is another example. Zach Wilson is going to see some looks that will confuse him. The chasm in experience and accomplishment between the New England staff and the Jets staff is massive at this point. Belichick will have the Patriots prepared as if this is a playoff game because he knows starting 0-2 and, in particular, starting 0-2 against divisional opponents that he feels he should beat, could end up damning their season.
New England will win the turnover battle and the Jets will struggle to score more than 14 points. This doesn't look like a particularly inhospitable trip for the Patriots.