The Chiefs are really hoping Matt Cassel is going to be healthy enough to play Sunday, as that gives them a lot more options throwing the ball. If he is not ready to go, more than likely Brodie Croyle will get the start.
Even if Cassel’s leg is ready to go, the game plan will be the old cliché—“Run the ball, and stop the run.”
The left side of the offensive line (Brandon Albert, Brian Waters, Rudy Niswanger) has been together for a year now, and they have developed some chemistry with each other. Look for the Chiefs to take advantage of this and run left much more than they run right.
Running the ball effectively will keep the Baltimore defense on the field more than they want to be, and while they are very good, they are also old. Wearing them down will be easier now than in past years.
The biggest offensive key to the game for the Chiefs will be to protect the QB, and there are several ways to do this.
1. This is probably the easiest to do, while still keeping the play calling relatively simple: keep the tight ends in to block more often than they are out running routes, in an effort to help the struggling offensive line.
The Ravens also run a 3-4 defense, and are among the best at doing so; their outside linebackers are very good at getting to the quarterback, and our young tackles might need some help.
2. Get the QB out of the pocket. Calling bootleg plays, especially off of play-action, will hold the linebackers, and give Cassel (or Croyle) more time to throw the ball.
Both of them are young quarterbacks, and need that little extra time to find the open receiver.
3. No seven-step drops for the quarterback. For most passing plays, the quarterback takes either three, five, or seven steps back after the ball is snapped. Obviously, the more steps backwards, the longer it takes for the QB to throw the ball, and the easier it is for the pass rush to get in the backfield.
Limiting these long drops, and mostly having only three-step drops and quick reads will get the ball out of his hands faster, neutralizing the pass rush.
The defense has played well in the preseason, especially against the run. We will see if they are for real this weekend, as the Ravens had the fourth best rushing game in the NFL last season.
The defense should prove to be more aggressive this year than under Herm Edwards, and should result in more turnovers.
The keys to the game on the defensive side are easily thought of, but harder to execute.
1. Stop the run. Easier said than done, right? The easiest way to do this, is to call run blitzes much more often than normal.
The Ravens’ offensive line is very good, and keeping the linebackers up at the line of scrimmage will be advantageous in stopping the run. Also, keeping eight defenders in the box, that is, keeping a safety near the line of scrimmage also, will aid in stopping the run.
2. Put pressure on Joe Flacco. While Flacco played well last year (for a rookie) he still threw almost as many interceptions as he did touchdowns.
Blitzing him in passing situations will make him uncomfortable in the pocket and force him into making mistakes. Getting turnovers will greatly help out the Chiefs offense by giving them a short field.