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.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 8
Buffalo Bills CB Josh Norman (hamstring) hasn't been ruled out, but he's unlikely to play in Week 8.
Fantasy Spin: It's a tough break for Norman, who was going off in fantasy before the injury. He can be dropped for fresh legs in IDP leagues.
Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap was told to stay home while the team attempts to trade him.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy doesn't intend to bench quarterback Nick Foles in favor of Mitchell Trubisky after the team's 24-10 Monday night loss to the Rams in Week 7. The Bears are 5-2 but rank 27th in points per game (19.7), 30th in yards per play (4.8), 30th in yards per run (3.8), 29th in yards per pass (5.6), 30th on third-down conversions (35.1 percent) and 29th in red-zone efficiency (47.6 percent). Foles took over for Trubisky in Week 3 and was 28-for-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions against the Rams. Foles has thrown for 1,139 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in five appearances (four starts) this year. The Saints -- Chicago's Week 8 opponent -- allow the sixth-most fantasy points per game to signal-callers, but Foles remains a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues in Chicago's stagnant offense.
Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (hip) and Russell Gage (knee) were both limited in practice on Tuesday. Jones' injury is new, but the 31-year-old always seems to be fighting through some sort of injury and he should be fine for the Thursday night matchup with the Panthers. The All-Pro wideout missed the Week 5 matchup with Carolina due to an injury, but he should be fine for this one and he remains a locked-in, must-start WR1 whenever he's on the field as the team's No. 1 receiver. Jones has 16 receptions on 19 targets for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks against the Vikings and Lions. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts, but Jones should be in all starting lineups regardless. Gage should play on Thursday, but he's been a non-factor the last five weeks and can be left to the waiver wire in shallow leagues.
The San Francisco 49ers reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Tavon Austin (knee) on Tuesday, and he is no longer on their Injured Reserve list. Austin was put on IR before the 2020 regular season started. He spent the last two years in Dallas, recording 21 catches on 37 targets for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 21 games. The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Rams, Austin had his best season in 2016, catching 58 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He has just 15 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons and has essentially become a little-used gadget player in recent seasons. Don't expect Austin to resurface anywhere in 2021 as a fantasy relevant option.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that rookie third-round safety Terrell Burgess (ankle) broke his ankle in the Monday night win over the Bears and will miss the rest of the season. The 21-year-old will finish his rookie season with eight tackles (seven solo) and one pass defensed in seven games of action. Burgess was taken with the 104th overall pick in April and has the versatility to also play nickel cornerback in the NFL. He's a smart player and anticipates routes in coverage. The former Utah Ute should have plenty of time to recover in time for training camp next summer.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Detroit Lions Defense will not have newly acquired defensive end Everson Griffen available to play in Week 8 against the Colts. Griffen's debut with Detroit will come on Nov. 8 against the Vikings, the team that he spent the first 10 years of his career with while earning four Pro Bowl nods. The Lions sent a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 to the Cowboys for Griffen's services on Tuesday, and he'll be a veteran present for Detroit's defensive line the rest of the season. While the 32-year-old isn't an IDP starting option at his position on a weekly basis, he should help improve their defensive line. However, the Lions defense overall is near the bottom of the league in fantasy points through seven weeks, so you should continue to avoid them everywhere.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley has either topped 50 receiving yards or caught a touchdown pass in all seven games this season.
Fantasy Spin: Beasley's 470 receiving yards rank in the top 20 in the NFL, and he sits inside the top 15 in receptions. He's a PPR flex option.
Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley's 122 rush attempts rank second in the NFL, and he has logged at least 14 carries in all seven games.
Fantasy Spin: The heavy workload is a bit of a surprise given Gurley's history of knee problems, and while he has managed just one 100-yard game, he has scored seven times and topped 50 yards six times. He's a volume-based RB2 heading into a friendly matchup against Carolina in Week 8.
Free-agent WR Dwayne Harris (Texans) was signed to the Chicago Bears' practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams DL A'Shawn Robinson (undisclosed) will be activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list this week, head coach Sean McVay said Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) could be ready to play against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, according to head coach Sean McVay Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee was forced to sit out Week 7 for his first missed game of the season. He has 18 catches on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns through six games and is a low-end TE1 most weeks.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't being shopped for a trade, according to a source with direct knowledge Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzpatrick would definitely have at least some measure of fantasy value on any one of the NFL's current QB-needy teams, but it appears he'll be staying in Miami to mentor rookie Tua Tagovailoa. It will help Tagovailoa, but it's a shame for fantasy managers in two-QB leagues.
Tennessee Titans RB D'Onta Foreman, PK Tucker McCann, QB Trevor Siemian and LB Tuzar Skipper were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain, RB Trey Edmunds, LB Jayrone Elliott and RB Wendell Smallwood were named to the team's Week 8 practice squad protection list Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Greg Joseph and DT Jeremiah Ledbetter were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
New York Giants RB Alfred Morris, P Ryan Santoso, G Chad Slade and QB Clayton Thorson were named as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) could be back in the mix as soon as Sunday versus Seattle, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that he was hopeful that they'd have Coleman for the game. The 49ers' backfield has been a constant shuffling endeavor with Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) both now out of the mix for the foreseeable future. Coleman's return coincides with Jerick McKinnon likely moving up the depth chart, although how any share of carries would be split remains unclear. Coleman started 11 games for San Francisco last season, so despite having compiled just 30 yards across 18 carries this year, he's likely to see an increased role whenever he's officially ready to return. Check back throughout the week for updates on his status as they become available.