The Kansas City Chiefs are in the postseason for the first time since 2006; it’s the first time in four years that San Diego did not win the AFC West.
The game will be played in the legendary Arrowhead stadium where the crowd is always in a frenzy. The Chiefs 7-1 at home this season. That lone defeat came last weekend against Oakland.
The Baltimore Ravens have won on the road in the previous two wild-card rounds. They took care of Miami in the 2008 and New England last year.
Ravens Rush Offense vs. Chiefs Rush Defense
Bal—114.4 (14th) vs. KC—110.2 (14th)
The Ravens have had a bit of a down year running the football. They’ve let Flacco loose a bit more this season, so the backs are seeing less carries.
But the Ravens have won their last two wild-card games because of their ability to pound the rock. Against Miami, the Ravens carried the ball 33 times for a 151 yards. Last year against New England, Baltimore ran the ball an astonishing 52 times for 234 yards. Ray Rice alone had 159 yards in 22 carries and two scores. Joe Flacco threw the ball just 10 times. Amazing.
Rice is most dangerous in the passing game, with 556 receiving yards.
The Chiefs are vulnerable against the run, despite the ranking. They’ve allowed 160 or more yards in three of their last five games.
Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and inside linebacker Derrick Johnson are stout against the run. The x-factor in this game is strong safety Eric Berry. He’ll be the eighth man in the box.
Ravens Pass Offense vs. Chiefs Pass Defense
Bal—208.4 (20) vs. KC—219.9 (17)
Anquan Boldin has been a fine addition in the receiving core, but the story this year is the continuing maturation of Joe Flacco. He throws arguably the best deep out in the game. Most of those lasers were caught by Derrick Mason. Tight end Todd Heap is a nice vertical target. Flacco’s most underrated quality is his ability to move the chains on third downs.
Who wins the game?
A key matchup in this one will be outside linebacker Tamba Hali vs. left tackle Michael Oher. Hali led the AFC in sacks with 14.5.
The Chiefs have a very young secondary, led by cornerback Brandon Flowers. Berry would win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award if it wasn’t for Ndamukong Suh. Berry’s very versatile; he can blitz, tackle and play the pass well.
Chiefs Rush Offense vs. Ravens Rush Defense
KC—164.2 (1) vs. Bal—93.9 (5)
This is your ball game right here. The running tandem of Thomas Jones and Jamal Charles have complemented each other well. Jones is the inside bruising runner, while Charles is the speedy home-run threat. Charles averaged a NFL leading whopping 6.4 yards a carry.
Haloti Ngata, 3-4 right defensive end, will be matched up with Chief right guard Brian Waters. The winner of this individual matchup will be why or why not the Chiefs can get their running game going.
Oh, and Ray Lewis can still tackle.
Chiefs Pass Offense vs. Ravens Pass Defense
KC—185.5 (30) vs. Bal—224.9 (21)
The Chiefs passing average is misleading because they run the ball so much. Quarterback Matt Cassel has been tremendously proficient in the passing game. He hasn’t made many mistakes.
Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe broke out. He led the NFL with 15 touchdown receptions.
Ravens safety Ed Reed is the best at baiting a quarterback to throw an interception. We’ll see if Cassel will fall into any of Reed’s traps.
Reed led the NFL with eight interceptions, despite missing the first six weeks of the season due to injury.
Ravens' Three X-Factors
- Ed Reed
- Haloti Ngata
- Ray Rice
Chiefs' Three X-Factors
- Jamal Charles
- Eric Berry
- Tamba Hali
PREDICTION: Ravens 22, Chiefs 13
I think the Baltimore rush defense will do quite well against the Kansas City rushing attack. We’ll see how Baltimore attacks Charles out on the edges.
I believe the Ravens will be able to run the ball themselves and win the game. Ray Rice’s feet and hands will help Baltimore prevail. Joe Flacco will manage the game and not turn the ball over.