There’s no such thing as a sure thing in the NFL; there are no gimme games.
But the Baltimore Ravens kickoff weekend matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs is about as ideal an opener as a team could hope for.
The Ravens have won seven of their last last nine home openers, including last year’s upset against the Cincinnati Bengals, which featured then rookie quarterback Joe Flacco and first-year head coach John Harbaugh.
But after 2008’s 11-5 finish and an appearance in the AFC Championship game, expectations are as high as they’ve ever been in Baltimore, especially after the Ravens 4-0 preseason. Flacco has looked impressive, and the defense seemingly hasn’t missed a beat under first year coordinator Greg Mattison.
Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs had a strong showing in the final preseason contest despite sitting out most of training camp with a heel injury. Many of the Ravens other offseason additions, including cornerback Domonique Foxworth and offensive tackle Michael Oher, have all come into their own in Baltimore’s system.
Meanwhile, Kansas City is coming off of a 2-14 season, and is breaking in a first-year head coach themselves in Todd Haley. And their key acquisition from the offseason, quarterback Matt Cassel, may not play due to a knee injury. That would leave fourth-year man Brodie Croyle, who only has eight starts in his career.
Kansas City also recently fired their offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, a likely indicator of internal strife. Combined with opening on the road against in a hostile environment like Baltimore, and it could be a recipe for disaster for the Chiefs.
But the Ravens aren’t looking at it that way. Harbaugh noted the team isn’t too far removed from where the Chiefs are now, and that they respect the program they’re building.
“There’s a lot of mystery to the Chiefs, X- and O-wise, and there’s a lot of mystery personnel-wise,” Harbaugh said. “We are in the dark as far as a lot of things they are going to do.”
The Ravens, after all, were determined to start strong despite all the questions in 2008, and they expect the same from the Chiefs this weekend.
“We had a new coach [last year]. We can came out and we had something to prove, we felt, and we wanted to play hard and play hard for our coach, play hard for the city and play hard for us,” Flacco said of his Week One opponent. “We know that Kansas City is going to come out ready to play. They’ve got a new coach, and they really have something to prove.
“They’ve been playing pretty well in the preseason. They’ve had a handful of sacks, and they’ve stopped the run pretty well. Their front seven is playing pretty well. So, we’re going to have to come out ready to play and give them all we’ve got.”
The strong preseason stats will mean nothing come Sunday afternoon. Neither will 2008. The Chiefs won't accomplish something similar to what the Ravens did last season, but the Ravens want to accomplish something more.
Anything can happen on any given Sunday, but the Ravens are favored by 10 1/2 points for a reason. The ingredients are in place for a strong outing on Sunday, and the Ravens have shown no sign they plan on letting down.