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Big game: Chiefs and Mahomes vs Ravens and Jackson on MNF

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.''

FUNDAMENTALS

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.''

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City contributed to this story.

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Player Notes
Andy Isabella Oct 26 8:20am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella wasn't able to contribute much in the team's 37-34 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7. Isabella caught just one pass for seven yards on three targets in the game. It's been a rough stretch for Isabella lately. He has just five receptions over his last four games. Christian Kirk has been coming on strong lately, which has led to far fewer opportunities for Isabella to contribute. Isabella should remain on waivers in all leagues at this point.

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Arizona Cardinals Oct 26 8:20am ET

The Cardinals Defense was the latest victim of the scorching hot Seattle Seahawks offense. The Seahawks compiled 572 yards from scrimmage and put 34 points on the board against the Cardinals in Week 7. Luckily, the Cardinals offense kept pace and managed to lead the team to a win. The Cardinals defense did come up with some key turnovers as they forced three Russell Wilson interceptions and also recorded two sacks. Safety Budda Baker almost scored a defensive touchdown, but was tackled by DK Metcalf inside the 10-yard line after a long interception return.

From RotoBaller

Dan Arnold Oct 26 8:10am ET

Arizona Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold had his best game of the season so far in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. He caught two of his three targets for 57 yards. His 41-yard reception was the team's longest passing play in the game. No other Cardinals tight end recorded a catch in the game. Arnold is the clear top pass-catching tight end on the Cardinals, but just hasn't been involved enough to warrant any fantasy consideration. He had four receptions in Week 4 against the Carolina Panthers, then failed to record a catch in his next two games. He should remain on waivers in all leagues for now.

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Christian Kirk Oct 26 8:10am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk came up with some big plays for the team in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. Kirk caught five passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets. Kirk has now posted back-to-back two-touchdown games. He tied with Larry Fitzgerald for second on the team in targets in this week's game. DeAndre Hopkins led the way with 12 targets. Kirk has been delivering great production lately. While he may be a bit inconsistent going forward, he's a solid WR3 or flex option most weeks.

From RotoBaller

Larry Fitzgerald Oct 26 8:00am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his most productive game of the season so far in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. Fitzgerald caught all eight of his targets for 62 yards. He was second on the team in receiving yards in the game, behind DeAndre Hopkins, and he tied with Christian Kirk for second on the team in targets. It was the first time this year that Fitzgerald had topped 50 receiving yards in a game and only the second time he'd compiled over four receptions in a game. This week's performance puts Fitzgerald back on the PPR map, though the Cardinals have a bye next week, so he should remain on waivers in all leagues for now.

From RotoBaller

DeAndre Hopkins Oct 26 7:50am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught 10 of his 12 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night in Week 7. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season and he now has three touchdowns on the year. Hopkins benefitted from a fantastic performance from Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Murray and Hopkins have been clicking all year long as Hopkins has dominated targets for the team. Hopkins leads the NFL with 704 receiving yards on the year. He is a no doubt, high-end WR1 going forward.

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Chase Edmonds Oct 26 7:40am ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds gave the offense a solid boost in the team's 37-34 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7. Edmonds carried the ball five times for 58 yards and caught all seven of his targets for 87 yards. He severely outplayed the team's No. 1 back Kenyan Drake (ankle), who managed just 34 yards on 14 carries before leaving the game late with an ankle injury. Drake was carted off to the locker room, which suggests his injury could be significant. Edmonds is going to be a hot waiver wire add this week as he could potentially be the team's new No. 1 back. Keep in mind that the Cardinals have a bye next week, but Edmonds could be a great Week 9 start against the Miami Dolphins.

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Kenyan Drake Oct 26 7:30am ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (ankle) couldn't get anything going on Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Drake received 14 carries in the game, but managed to gain just 34 yards. He was targeted twice in the passing game and came down with one catch for seven yards. On his last run of the game, Drake injured his ankle and he had to be carted to the locker room. We don't know much about the injury at this point, but Drake could be forced to miss some time, which would make Chase Edmonds the team's new No. 1 back. The Cardinals have a bye next week, so Drake will have extra time to recover before the team's Week 9 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.

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Kyler Murray Oct 26 7:20am ET

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray took advantage of a fantastic matchup against a weak Seattle Seahawks secondary in Week 7. Murray completed 34 of 48 passes for 360 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown. Murray has now through for over 350 yards in two of his past three games. However, he's been held under 200 passing yards in two of his past four. This week's game was Murray's best fantasy output of the year. It was the first time he scored four touchdowns in a game this year. He's a no doubt QB1 going forward and this week's performance was clear evidence that he can be a high-end QB1 when he is at his best.

From RotoBaller

Chris Carson Oct 26 7:10am ET

Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson was forced from the Sunday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals with a foot injury. Coach Pete Carroll described it as a mid-foot sprain, and Carson will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Carlos Hyde took over as the lead running back after Carson exited the game, after missing the last two games with his own injury, and is now looking like one of the top waiver wire adds for Week 8. Hyde racked up 15 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown, and also added three receptions for eight yards. Stay tuned for further updates on Carson's injury and how long he may be sidelined for.

From RotoBaller

Kenyan Drake Oct 26 7:00am ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake injured his ankle against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. This did not look like a minor injury as he had to be carted to the locker room and even had a towel over his head. Drake was ruled out for the game and we should know more about the extent of the injury in the coming days. This is a tough break for Drake, the Cardinals and fantasy football managers. Chase Edmonds is now the lead running back for the Cardinals, and had a strong showing against the Seahawks. Edmonds is currently rostered in 62% of fantasy football leagues, and is the top waiver wire pickup for Week 8 if he's somehow still available.

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Atlanta Falcons Oct 25 10:40pm ET

The Atlanta Falcons Defense had another quiet statistical day in a 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions. Not only did they record just two sacks and no interceptions, but they also gave up the game-winning score to tight end T.J. Hockenson. This unit is definitely one to avoid for fantasy purposes, especially considering they offer no upside. Leave them on the waiver wire.

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Younghoe Koo Oct 25 10:30pm ET

Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo had just two opportunities- a pair of extra-points- and he made both of them in a 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions. It was Koo's first game this year without at least one field-goal made. Otherwise, he's been an excellent fantasy kicker playing on a team whose offense constantly finds itself in or near the red zone. That alone gives Koo upside in most weeks. He should be in lineups for next week's divisional clash against the Panthers.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Oct 25 10:20pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense was quiet in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Pittsburgh was unable to force a turnover and was credited with just two sacks in the game. While it wasn't a fantasy-scoring bonanza for the Steelers, they held their own against a Tennessee offense that had been one of the highest-scoring in the league coming into Week 7. T.J. Watt and Vince Williams both led the way in the win with one sack apiece. Pittsburgh's defense draws another tough matchup in Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens.

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Hayden Hurst Oct 25 10:20pm ET

Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst caught six of seven targets for 68 receiving yards against the Lions. Hurst and Matt Ryan had a rhythm all game, as the former worked the intermediate routes to perfection. That's two games in a row for the 27-year-old with at least 50 yards receiving, as the coaching staff seems to be finding more ways to get him the ball. A tough matchup with the Panthers awaits- they held him to just eight yards- though Hurst is playing too well to bench right now.

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Russell Gage Oct 25 10:10pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage hauled in six of seven targets for 54 receiving yards in a loss to the Lions. Gage tied with Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst for second on the team in targets. The 24-year-old did injure his knee in the first quarter but was able to return to the action. He has seen at least seven targets in two of the three games that fellow wideout Julio Jones has been healthy for, indicating that Jones' presence does wonders for Gage in terms of opening up opportunities on the outside. As long as Matt Ryan continues to play well, Gage should be in the conversation as a WR3/4.

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Eric Ebron Oct 25 10:10pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron caught six of his eight targets for 50 yards in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Ebron finished third on the team in receiving, behind Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and surprisingly ahead of rookie Chase Claypool. It continues a strong stretch of play for Ebron, who has caught at least five passes in three of his past four games. While he only has one touchdown on the year, Ebron is turning out to be a high-end TE2 for fantasy purposes in his first season with the Steelers. He will face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8.

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Chase Claypool Oct 25 10:00pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool lost two yards on his lone reception in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. It goes down as a disappointing outing for the rookie, who had scored five total touchdowns in the previous two games. The return of Diontae Johnson certainly played into Claypool's slow outing, as did the resurgence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who drew 14 targets. Claypool's fantasy value going forward appears to be tied to the availability of Johnson, who is the clear alpha wide receiver in Pittsburgh. That being said, Johnson injured his ankle late in the game. The injury doesn't appear to be serious but neither did the back injury that held him out of almost all of the past two games. After looking like a must-start heading into Week 7, Claypool is all of a sudden a shaky flex play for Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens.

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Calvin Ridley Oct 25 9:50pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley caught five of seven targets for 69 receiving yards and a touchdown in a narrow 23-22 loss to Detroit. Ridley corralled Matt Ryan's lone touchdown throw of the day and made a couple of highlight-reel grabs, including a nifty sideline catch where he got both feet in-bounds. Ridley has produced at least seven targets in all but one game and has eclipsed 100 yards four times already, after doing it twice all of last year. The breakout is in full effect and should continue into Week 8 against the Panthers, who Ridley torched for 136 receiving yards back in Week 6.

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Rob Gronkowski Oct 25 9:50pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski had another terrific performance in Week 7, getting five receptions for 62 yards and a score on eight targets. Gronk is starting to look like himself and that's encouraging for fantasy managers. The big tight end has now scored a touchdown in two straight games. He has also seen at least six targets in the past three games and has gotten over 52 yards in those games as well. Gronk is definitely in the starting conversation going forward.

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