Thu Sep 24 5:19pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) throws against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, right, is tackled by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, center, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes throws under pressure agains the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
It's the defending Super Bowl champions against a team that's won 14 straight regular-season games.
Or, maybe it's a preview of the AFC title game - a matchup many expected to see last January. Most of all, the intrigue surrounding Monday night's game between the Kansas City Chiefs (2-0) and Baltimore Ravens (2-0) is directed at the quarterbacks: 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson.
''When those two quarterbacks are on the field, it's magic on both sides,'' Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. ''I see every week what Lamar can do, and I always see some highlight or something of what Mahomes can do. So, when you have two superstar quarterbacks like that, it's going to be a fun game.''
Mahomes last season led the Chiefs to their first NFL championship since 1970 and was the Super Bowl MVP. Jackson guided the Ravens to a 14-2 regular-season record, set the league mark for yards rushing by a quarterback and directed the most prolific running attack in NFL history. Baltimore closed the regular season with 12 straight wins to earn the top seed in the AFC, but bowed out with an upset loss at home to Tennessee.
That helped Mahomes and the Chiefs to go the distance, and they'll be bringing an 11-game winning streak into Monday night's showdown.
Jackson is 21-3 as a starter during the regular season, with two of those losses coming against Kansas City and Mahomes in 2018 (27-24 in overtime) and 2019 (33-28). But, even though this is the first game in NFL history featuring two MVPs under the age of 26, Jackson waved off the notion that this is solely about him versus Mahomes.
''I don't have to focus on Mahomes. I've got to focus on their defense, I've got to focus on scoring, I've got to focus on my job,'' Jackson insisted. ''My defense has to worry about him.''
Oh, there's plenty of reason for the Baltimore defense to be concerned, even though the unit has been exceptional thus far in lopsided wins over Cleveland and Houston. Mahomes threw for 377 yards and two TDs in that 2018 game, and last year pierced the Ravens for 374 yards and three scores.
''He has all these tools, and he has so much talent around him,'' Humphrey said. ''With Mahomes, as good as he is in the pocket, he's just as good - probably better - outside the pocket, which is the craziest thing about his game. So, preparing for him, it's really tough.''
GETTING THEIR KICKS
Not only does this game feature two of the league's best quarterbacks, but two of the finest kickers will be ready to roll if a late field-goal try is required for the win.
Kansas City's Harrison Butker banged home two field goals of 58 yards last week in an overtime win over the Chargers. He's been perfect so far this season, led the league in scoring last year and has amassed 445 points in his career, most ever by a kicker after 47 games.
Justin Tucker, meanwhile, is the most accurate kicker in NFL history (90.9% on field goals). He's never missed from inside 29 yards, is 226 for 237 from inside 49 yards and has clicked on 71% of his tries from at least 50 yards.
NO HOME CROWD
The Ravens have been waiting since 2017 to have a Monday night game at home, and now that they got one, they'll be forced to play without the backing of their fans. Attendance will be zero because of the pandemic.
So, the Ravens won't enjoy the advantage the Chiefs had while playing at home against Baltimore in each of the past two seasons. This will be the third straight game for the Ravens without fans in the stadium.
''Sometimes you say, `We'll play them anywhere. We'll play them in a parking lot. We'll play them anywhere. No fans, we don't care,''' coach John Harbaugh said. ''Well, here we are. We're playing basically in a parking lot right now - with no fans.''
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, ''It's weird. I've been doing this a couple weeks now and you get out there and it seems like you can hear every penny drop.''
LOOK AND SEE
One of the problems the Kansas City offense has faced through the first two games of the season has been defenses that have showed completely different looks from the past. Teams that have run man coverage have gone to zones, and the blitz looks that Houston and Los Angeles have used in the past have been replaced - all in an effort to confuse Mahomes.
Expect the Ravens to do the same thing given how much they've played each other the past few years.
''It's going to be all about execution,'' Mahomes said. ''When you play a defense like this that's very mobile, multiple, you have to be ready to go and have answers for everything. Whenever they give us an un-scouted look, try to have a positive game, go to the sideline and try to figure it out.''
Without much offseason or preseason games, and limited hitting to practice it, tackling has been a problem for the Chiefs this season. They know how important it will be against the mobile Jackson and the Ravens' productive ground game.
''Coach Reid did an unbelievable job in camp trying to make things normal,'' defensive tackle Chris Jones said, ''but we just have to stay on that. We missed a lot of tackles last week and that's a big focus this week, wrap up and finish plays.''
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this story.
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Five Hot Plays: Week 7
The Philadelphia Eagles Defense played well on Thursday Night Football in a Week 7 win over the New York Giants. They allowed 21 points but recorded three sacks, an interception, and two fumble recoveries. In standard formats, the Eagles defense scored nine fantasy points, their second-best showing of the season. The Eagles defense will be a middling option next week in what will likely be a shootout against the Dallas Cowboys.
New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard returned from toe injury with six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. Shepard hasn't played since Week 2, but made his return to the lineup felt as adding another weapon in the passing game helped the New York offense after they put up just 112 passing yards last week. Shepard can be added in 12-team fantasy leagues for those seeking WR help, but he draws a tough matchup with Tampa Bay in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver John Hightower only made one catch in Week 7, but he gained 59 yards on it and helped set up the Eagles for a comeback victory over the New York Giants. Hightower was targeted twice, both coming in the fourth quarter of the game. He looks like he's settling into a low-volume deep threat role, making him unreliable in most fantasy formats despite his potential for high-scoring individual plays. He's a worthwhile investment in best-ball formats but not a strong head-to-head or points league play yet.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward scored a touchdown in Week 7, helping the Eagles to a win over their division rival New York Giants. Ward caught a total of five passes, gaining 42 yards on six targets. His touchdown came on a short three-yard pass from quarterback Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter, putting the Eagles within one score. Ward was third on the team in targets and could have decent PPR value if the Eagles offense starts to get its bearings. Week 8 against the Cowboys "defense" could be a good time for that to happen.
The New York Giants Defense had a strong game for fantasy managers despite costing the Giants late as Carson Wentz marched the Eagles down the field for the win. Star cornerback James Bradberry led the unit with a key interception in the end zone in the first half. New York added three sacks to put up a respectable line for fantasy managers. After two good matchups, New York will face a stiff test in Week 8 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside showed up in the Week 7 box score, catching his lone target for an eight yard gain. Arcega-Whiteside recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown last week, but has overall been one of the most disappointing second-round picks in recent history. For the season, the second-year receiver has two catches for 45 yards. He's well off the fantasy radar in all but Eagles-only fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott made his only extra point try and made one of his two field goal attempts in Week 7. Elliott made his kick from 31 yards out then missed one from just 29 yards out. Elliott has turned into a mostly low-volume kicker and the consistency he's had in the past seems to be gone. Elliott is not a recommended kicker in standard formats going forward, although he may have a few more opportunities next week against the Cowboys.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton had a quiet night on Thursday as he was blanketed by Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay. Slayton caught just two passes for 23 yards as New York's leading receiver was targeted just four times by QB Daniel Jones. Slayton has had big games this season, but has also gone silent at times as the second-year receiver has earned the dreaded boom/bust label in fantasy. He'll draw another tough matchup in Week 8 versus the Buccaneers.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Corey Clement only recorded three touches in a Week 7 win against the New York Giants. Clement was thought to possibly have a larger role with starter Miles Sanders (knee) out, but Boston Scott took over the Eagles backfield and Clement was nothing more than a change of pace. Clement ended up running the ball twice for nine yards and made one catch for a 12 yard game. He was only targeted that one time. Jason Huntley and Jalen Hurts received the same number of carries as Clement in this one. He'll be firmly off the fantasy radar regardless of the status of Miles Sanders in Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Richard Rodgers led the Eagles in receiving in a Week 7 win over the New York Giants. Rodgers had the most catches, gained the most yards, and was targeted the second-most on the team. The only thing he didn't do was find the end zone. Rodgers caught six passes on eight targets, gaining 85 yards. With Zach Ertz (ankle) and Dallas Goedert (ankle) both out, Rodgers ran as the primary tight end in an offense accustomed to involving their tight end in the passing game. With Ertz and Goedert both on IR, Rodgers could have another week of low-end TE1 value coming up in Week 8 against a very soft Cowboys Defense.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham remained very heavily involved in the Eagles offense in a Week 7 win. Fulgham was targeted a team-high 11 times, making five catches for 73 yards. It was the first week that Fulgham was on the active roster where he did not score a touchdown, but he continued to operate as the surprising WR1 on the Eagles offense. With DeSean Jackson injured once again and looking like he'll miss even more time, Fulgham season looks like it will continue in Week 8 against the Cowboys.
New York Giants tight end Evan Engram tied his season-high with six catches Thursday night that he turned into 46 yards. Engram added three rushing yards on two carries. The 46 yards are his second-highest total of the season and while he hasn't found the end zone, things are trending up for the fourth-year tight end. Engram had nine targets in this game after having just five in the previous two games. The Giants gave him a carry inside the five-yard line on their first drive as the offense needs Engram to get going. With the tight end position being a wasteland of fantasy football, Engram offers upside few others can match and has a high target-share in the New York offense. He's a startable tight end in 10-team leagues and larger.
New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate scored his first touchdown of the season and did nothing else on Thursday night in Philadelphia. Tate made a contested-catch which he took in for a 39-yard touchdown early in the game and was invisible from there as the veteran receiver didn't record another catch. Tate had just two targets on the night and should not be trusted unless his target-share increases. With Sterling Shepard back in the lineup, fantasy managers shouldn't bet on that happening.
The Denver Broncos Defense had one of their best performances of the season in the 18-12 upset win over the Patriots in Week 6. But even after turning the ball over three times last weekend and holding New England to only 12 points, Denver's D still ranks only 20th in the league with 4.8 fantasy points per game. They have only five total turnovers in five games (two fumble recoveries, three interceptions) but have been a bit above average with 14 sacks despite missing All-Pro pass-rusher Von Miller (ankle), who is out for the year. Against one of the highest-scoring offenses in the NFL in Kansas City, you should be looking to avoid the Broncos defense this week. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown 15 touchdowns to just one interception in six games this year, adding two touchdowns on the ground.
Denver Broncos rookie tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was second on the team with six targets in his NFL debut in the Week 6 win over the Patriots, catching two passes for 45 yards. It was a nice showing for the large-bodied and speedy tight end in his first-ever NFL game. But with Noah Fant (ankle) trending up to return in Week 7 against the Chiefs, the 22-year-old Missouri product could go back to being a healthy inactive this Sunday. When Fant is healthy, he's been one of quarterback Drew Lock's favorite targets, and that is especially true with receiver Courtland Sutton (knee) out for the year. Even if Fant misses another game, Okwuegbunam would be a desperation low-end TE2 in the deepest of leagues.
New York Giants running back Dion Lewis handled three carries for 23 yards in a loss to the Eagles on Thursday. Despite starting running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) leaving after only three carries, Lewis was not a big part of the Giants' game plan as Wayne Gallman handled the bulk of the work in the Big Blue backfield. New York hasn't had enough success rushing the ball this season for Lewis to be a fantasy asset in most fantasy leagues.
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus was the hero for both the Broncos and for fantasy managers that started him in the Week 6 win over the Patriots. He accounted for all of the team's 18 points on his six made kicks, including two from 50-plus yards out and two from 40-plus yards. McManus has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, but his Week 6 performance was his only real fantasy relevant one of the year because of the inconsistent nature of the offense in which he resides. The 29-year-old certainly won't be able to win the game himself in Week 7 against the high-flying Chiefs offensive attack, which makes McManus one to avoid for lineups this weekend. KC has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to the kicking position as well.
New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman came off the bench to have a productive game in a one-point loss to the Eagles on Thursday. Starting running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) exited with an injury after three carries and Gallman led the backfield from there. Gallman handled 10 carries for 34 yards and a touchdown while adding five catches for 20 receiving yards. The touchdown came from one-yard away as Gallman handled the goal-line work and fourth-quarter carries while the Giants thought they were salting away a win. If Freeman misses time, Gallman will be a hot waiver-wire addition as his role in this offense should make him the RB to own in New York.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had his best game in a long time in a Week 7 comeback win over the division rival New York Giants. Wentz led a fourth quarter game-winning drive and in total completed 25 of his 43 passes for 359 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also ran the ball seven times for 14 yards and another score. Wentz looked like Carson Wentz in a lot of this one, but there were still quite a few of the warning signs that he's shown all season. Still, those brave enough to have him in their starting lineups were certainly happy with what he did on the field tonight. Wentz may sneak into the lower end of QB1 consideration next week when he takes on what the Cowboys call a defense.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott played well in place of the injured Miles Sanders (knee) in a Week 7 win over the New York Giants. Scott ran the ball 12 times for 46 yards and also caught three passes for another 46 yards and a touchdown. Scott was targeted five times in the passing game, and his touchdown came on an 18-yard pass from Carson Wentz that completed the Eagles comeback in the fourth quarter. Scott might get another chance to lead the backfield next week if the Eagles choose to keep Sanders out through their Week 9 bye. If so, Scott will be a solid RB2 against a Cowboys Defense that can't do anything right.