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Chiefs vs. Ravens: Game Preview

The Chiefs look for their eighth win in a row against a depleted Ravens roster



GAMETIME: 12 p.m. CT on Sunday, December 20

LOCATION: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.


HOW TO LISTEN:101.1 The Fox



Injuries can ruin an entire season, and that is a truth that every team in the NFL must deal with.

The Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) have lost running back Jamaal Charles, offensive lineman Ben Grubbs and cornerback Phillip Gaines, among others, to Injured Reserve, but they have managed to sustain their season and will go for their eighth win in a row Sunday.

Their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens (4-9), have lost a staggering 18 players to Injured Reserve, and that includes starting quarterback Joe Flacco, No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith and starting running back Justin Forsett. At this point in the season, the Ravens have acknowledged they are playing for pride.

But that doesn't mean the Chiefs plan to take them lightly.

"It's easy when you turn on the film to see they're not exactly what their record shows," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said this week. "They had a few injuries, but the guys who are playing in there are playing their hearts out and I know firsthand that they're very well-coached and that they'll play hard."

Filling in for Flacco will likely be 12-year veteran Matt Schaub, who didn't play against the Seahawks last week due to shoulder and chest discomfort. In two starts for the Ravens this season, Schaub is 52 of 80 for 540 yards passing, 3 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.


Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said he would "lean" to go with Schaub if he is healthy, but if he cannot go, Jimmy Clausen would be in line for his second start of the season.

Rookie fourth-round pick Javorius Allen has taken over for Forsett at running back, while WR Kamar Aiken has become Baltimore's No. 1 threat through the air.

Aiken leads the Ravens with 54 receptions for 674 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns. Tight end Crockett Gillmore (back), who also has 4 touchdowns on the season, won't play Sunday. Backup RB Terrence West (calf) is questionable and WR Marlon Brown is doubtful.

As the Chiefs try to defend against a depleted Ravens offense, they will once again be without safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) and linebacker Justin Houston (knee).

Last week, second-year LB Dee Ford took the majority of snaps in place of Houston and had what could probably be considered the best game of his young career. Ford sacked San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers 3.0 times on the day and led the team with 7 tackles.

"It was exciting to see him do the things he did," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said of Ford this week. "The sacks were great and he made three or four really outstanding plays."

Sutton further explained that the key would be for Ford to follow it up with another solid performance against the Ravens.

"His challenge now is 'Hey, take that game as one game and see what else I can do, what else can I stack up here,'" Sutton said, "and it isn't so much as 'Am I going to get three sacks again, but am I going to perform at a winning level? Am I going to perform and improve each and every week?'

"If he does that, then he's like all other players and you've got a chance to be a really good football player."

Ford will be joined back on the field by returning defensive lineman Mike DeVito, who missed last game with a concussion. Tamba Hali, who is in the midst of an outstanding season, will play opposite Ford. 

On offense, QB Alex Smith will be up against a Ravens defense ranked 15th in the league based upon yards per game (347.8).

During the course of the season, Smith has proven himself as a viable dual threat, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and rushing for more than 350. Smith has 15 touchdowns passing to just 4 interceptions this season.

When asked about that efficiency, Smith, of course, diverted the attention.

"I think for one, starting up front with the [offensive line] doing such a great job," he said. "They've done a great job of kind of finishing guys. Maybe the pocket's not clean, but they've covered guys up and you kind of spit out of there and can make a big play. Maybe the way we're getting played, the way the defenses are playing us and focus with Jeremy (Maclin) and (Travis Kelce) and the run game."

The run game, led by Charcandrick West under the guidance of an injured Charles, continues to shine week after week for the Chiefs.

Kansas City has produced more than a combined 100 yards rushing in all but one of the games during the seven-game win streak, and Reid said that even without Charles, the plans on offense haven't shifted.

"It's very helpful because you don't have to change your whole offense for the one guy – for Jamaal or for Charcandrick (West) and Spencer (Ware)," offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. "It's tough losing a guy like Jamaal, obviously, but at the same time, to have that pleasant surprise of two guys filling in that [have] kind of taken that load has allowed us to maintain that same structure offensively and do the same things and do it over and over and over and get better at it every week."


The Chiefs offense will be without WR De'Anthony Thomas (concussion) for a fourth straight week. RB Spencer Ware (ribs) and offensive lineman Jeff Allen (ankle) are questionable.

Baltimore's best remaining defensive player is LB Elvis Dumervil, who leads the team in sacks with 6.0, but as 13 different Ravens have at least 1.0 sack this season, Harbaugh has shown a willingness to bring the heat from all angles.

Ravens cornerback Kyle Arrington (back) and linebacker Albert McClellan are officially listed as doubtful for Sunday.

In professional football, injuries can happen, and all those involved with the game will tell you that they regard that not as something possible, but as something expected.

That's where the depth of a team comes in, and at this stage of the season, the Ravens have had to drastically rely on that depth.

But below the surface, as the Chiefs have found with players like West and Ware, lie gems that shouldn't be taken lightly, and that is what has been Reid's message to the Chiefs throughout the week.

Just because certain players did not begin the season as starters doesn't necessarily mean they don't deserve to be starters.

Several Chiefs would be happy to tell you the same.

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