Chiefs face tough Ravens team
At 12-4, the Ravens are not your average Wild Card team. Their four losses were by a total of only 16 points, with no game yielding worse than a five-point defeat. Three of their four losses came at the hands of some of the league’s stiffest competition
Allow me to quote Mitch Holthus: “We cannot play to their reputation.” He was of course referring to the Baltimore Ravens, one of the most successful franchises in the NFL over the last decade. Before Mitch’s words sank in, I cringed every time I thought about guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. It’s hard not to be fearful of a defense that has never conceded a 100-yard rusher in the playoffs. Then I took a deep breath, did a little research and began to feel much better about the Chiefs’ upcoming opponent… but first, the bad news.
At 12-4, the Ravens are not your average Wild Card team. Their four losses were by a total of only 16 points, with no game yielding worse than a five-point defeat. Three of their four losses came at the hands of some of the league’s stiffest competition: New England, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.
In terms of experience, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have participated in almost as many playoff games as the whole of the Kansas City Chiefs roster. If you somehow needed more proof of the Ravens’ excellence, consider the fact that Baltimore has 42 players on their roster with postseason experience while the Chiefs have only 22.
But dig just a little deeper and you may begin to find a few shreds of hope: the Chiefs coaching staff is one of the true veteran groups in the NFL, most notably their Coordinators. From top to bottom they own 29 Super Bowl appearances, which is right around three times as many as the Ravens’ staff.
Statistically speaking, this is about as even a match-up as you’ll find. Contrary to popular belief, a number of significant advantages actually fall in Kansas City’s favor. The Chiefs sport a better turnover ratio, have tallied 11 more sacks (really?!) and even with the seven allowed to Oakland in Week 17, have surrendered eight fewer sacks than Baltimore.
Additionally, the Chiefs have some very intriguing match-ups to exploit.
While the Ravens rushing defense is allowing only 94 yards a game, they are yet to face an offense with the ability to attack the edges. Just take a look at their divisional competition: Cedric Benson, Peyton Hillis and Reshard Mendenhall aren’t exactly elusive, nor are their offensive lines. The AFC North is built on power-running, which plays right into the Ravens’ defensive strength: their front-seven. Kansas City will use the speed and agility of Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster to widen that stout front seven and force aging stars like Ray Lewis to play sideline to sideline.
Not only has the Ravens’ secondary (outside of Ed Reed) struggled mightily this season, their top three cornerbacks stand no taller than 5’10… that’s four inches shorter than Dwayne Bowe’s 6’2 frame. Also keep in mind that Baltimore has allowed over 300 yards passing five times this season, something the Chiefs’ seemingly inferior defense is yet to do. Meanwhile, Matt Cassel has two 300 yard passing games to Joe Flacco’s zero.
Then there is the injury report… the Ravens have 12 players listed this week, including many key starters; the Chiefs only have two, both of which happen to be due to illness rather than physical impairment.
And to think, I still haven’t mentioned home field advantage. The Arrowhead Stadium mystique has been well documented and the Ravens are doing everything they can to simulate such a hostile atmosphere. Oddly enough, in the five previous games between the Ravens and Chiefs, Baltimore has only been the road team one time. Plus, three of the Ravens’ four losses this season came on the road. Look for the crowd to give an already youthful and mistake-prone offensive line plenty of fits on Sunday.
As for the role of history, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the Chiefs haven’t won a playoff game since before the Ravens were an NFL franchise. Possibly more discouraging is the fact that the Chiefs have lost a record-tying six straight games in the postseason. Frankly, it’s about damn time Kansas City got a playoff win.
When asked about the team’s goal for the postseason, Coach Todd Haley said plainly, “We want to win one game.”
Thankfully, this is a group that we can actually expect to do so.