The Kansas City Chiefs were the surprise winners of the AFC West this year, and as a result, they were good enough to snare the AFC’s No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Baltimore Ravens are the annual contenders for the Super Bowl of this bunch though, which should make for an interesting NFL betting battle this weekend at Arrowhead Stadium. The Ravens and the Chiefs meet for the first time in the postseason, in a matchup pitting a relative NFL newcomer against a storied Kansas City franchise that stands out as one of the charter members of the since-merged AFL. Arrowhead will be rocking come kickoff as there Chiefs will be looking to ride their momentum from the regular season right through the Baltimore Ravens and into the next round of the playoffs, kickoff slated for 1 PM EST.
No one should want to play the Ravens right now. Baltimore plays a physical game on both offense and defense. The Chiefs’ main strength is their ground game, but they’ll face the league’s fourth-best run defense — a unit that forced four fumbles Sunday against the Bengals. Many consider New England the Super Bowl favorite, but the Ravens destroyed the Patriots in last year’s playoffs and took them deep into overtime at Gillette Stadium earlier this season. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Ravens right now, besides their five-game win streak, is how effective RB Ray Rice and the running game have been (104-66 run-pass ratio over the last three weeks.) Starting cornerback Josh Wilson (head), All-World defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (thigh) and Pro Bowl linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee) missed practice Wednesday for Baltimore, which is a bit concerning. Michael Oher (knee, ankle) is also having issues, while Ed Reed (ribs) and Todd Heap (hamstring) should be good to go. Perennial power-hitter Ray Lewis had a monster year with 139 tackles and two sacks to pace a defense that allowed just 16.9 points and 318.9 yards per game. Dawan Landry had 111 tackles while veteran Terrell Suggs had 11 sacks this season to round out the trio of terror. Uncharacteristic of previous years, the Baltimore defense were able to catch their wind with a little more help from an improving offense. The Ravens are a savvy veteran team that has been to the postseason many times. Even young quarterback Joe Flacco is making his third playoff appearance in as many years. Baltimore also appears to have momentum on their side having won their last four games while the Chiefs lost two of their last five and scored 10 points or fewer in three of those contests.
Kansas City won its first AFC West title since 2003 but will be trying to rebound from one of its worst showings of the season — the Chiefs were demolished in last week’s regular-season finale against the Raiders, 31-10. The loss wiped out the Chiefs’ bid for a perfect home record this season at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have shown they can bounce back from tough losses, though. They strung together three consecutive wins after being upset Nov. 14 in Denver by the Broncos and won consecutive games after suffering their worst loss of the season, 31-0, at San Diego on Dec. 12. If there’s one thing that we know KC can do, it’s run the football. No team does it better, as Jamaal Charles, a Pro Bowler, and Thomas Jones are leading the No. 1 ranked rushing game in the league. The problem here is that Baltimore ranks No. 5 in the NFL against the rush at 93.9 yards per game and No. 3 in scoring at 16.9 points per game. The Chiefs have tremendous potential to keep their feel-good story alive for a few more weeks. Although they’ve been far stronger at home, they’re built well enough to succeed in the postseason. With the NFL’s best rushing attack, the Chiefs can utilize a ball-control attack anywhere to help minimize the most explosive opposing offenses and allow their own offense to be effective in the worst conditions Mother Nature can deliver. QB Matt Cassel is peaking at the perfect time under the guidance of Charlie Weis, who has plenty of experience calling plays in the postseason. Romeo Crennel, also no stranger to this time of year, has put together a playoff-caliber defense. And Todd Haley is smart enough to let his coordinators coach.
Ravens vs Chiefs Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens -3
@ Kansas City Chiefs +3
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Ravens vs Chiefs Prediction for Wild Card Weekend:
Spread Prediction (TOP PLAY) – Baltimore hits the road as a wild card after being edged out by Pittsburgh for the AFC North title on tiebreakers. But the Ravens are coming into the game against the Chiefs with momentum, having won their last four and six of the past seven. The Baltimore Ravens are built for January football. They are strong in the trenches and they have the depth needed for long postseason runs. RB Ray Rice is a game breaker and I believe he will cause the KC defense fits come Sunday. The Chiefs displayed in their final tune up for the playoffs against the Raiders that they are porous to the run and susceptible to the long-pass. While there weren’t a whole lot of trends suggesting either team maintains a significant edge here, a few of the KC trends are somewhat telling. They are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 home games vs. a team with a winning road record and 1-6 ATS in their last 7 vs. AFC. The Chiefs are also 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games after scoring less than 15 points in their previous game, though we can’t read too much into that particular stat as Kansas City has performed especially well following a Straight Up loss overall, going 6-1 ATS. We will consider the Ravens knocking off the Arrowhead bunch and starring right in the eyes of a clash with the Steelers.
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Game Total Prediction – This game has every right to be considered a high scoring affair. These two teams hooked up last year in a shootout, a game that saw 62 points put up. The total has gone OVER in 4 of Baltimore’s last 6 games when playing Kansas City. Quarterback Matt Cassel, although not stellar, led his team under the direction of offensive coordinator Charlie Weiss while completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for 3,116 yards with 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. It was a major improvement from a disappointing finish just one year ago. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones were the Chiefs’ strength rolling up 2,363 combined yards and 11 touchdowns. Charles also contributed, hauling in 45 passes for 468 yards and three touchdowns. All of that offense netted the Chiefs an average of 22.9 points per game on 349.7 yards. The Chiefs’ young secondary will be facing a seasoned receiving corps, and in Flacco, a quarterback who is willing to wing it. Safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis and cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers are both in their third seasons. They’ve held their own — but also have been victimized at times by youthful mistakes. The Ravens were one of only two teams to have three players with at least 60 receptions each — veteran wideouts Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason, along with running back Ray Rice. The Chiefs are very comfortable playing at home in Arrowhead as they own the NFL’s 4th ranked home scoring average. QB Matt Cassel and company should be able to put up their fair share of points against the Ravens aging defense. We will be siding with the OVER in the early game on Sunday, just too much firepower on both sides offensively.