There are two games left in the regular season for the Baltimore Ravens, but the chances of them making the playoffs appear to be well over 50-percent. On Monday we took a look at the playoff predictor to determine the Ravens’ path to the playoffs and who they'd play based on on seeding.
Early on, the returns show that the Ravens should secure the No. 5 seed, which would likely send them to Kansas City in the wildcard round. If by some chance the Ravens fall to the No. 6 seed, they’ll likely face the task of heading to Jacksonville in a rematch of arguably the worst defeat in franchise history.
One way or another, it looks like the Ravens are likely locked into a trip to either Jacksonville or Kansas City, although there’s a slim chance they could go to Pittsburgh as well, but that looks unlikely given they’ll close the regular season out with the Texans and the Browns.
Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium is one of the toughest — and loudest — venues to play in when it comes to NFL stadiums. That’s not a hostile environment that you’d want to step into, nor one you'd expect to be an ideal launching point for a deep playoff run.
Next up is Jacksonville. Not necessarily the toughest venue to play in, and also one that offers warmer weather than the barren winter wastelands of New England, Baltimore and Pittsburgh that the Ravens are used to. That could provide some sort of advantage to a team that has plenty of playoff experience,
Aside from venues, you have to look at the teams and coaching staff. Kansas City brings in a veteran coach in Andy Reid, along with a veteran quarterback in Alex Smith who has played in numerous playoff games throughout his career. Factor in that the Chiefs have dynamic skill position players on offense and you threaten what has been one of the league’s best defenses in Baltimore’s efficient unit.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Chiefs have struggled on defense. Marcus Peters has been a ball magnet, but lacks physicality when it comes to making tackles and downhill stops. Justin Houston and Chris Jones pose problems up front as they can generate pressure and collapse pockets, forcing quarterback Joe Flacco into mistakes if they can get home with pressure. Despite this, the Chiefs’ linebackers can be picked on in the passing game, which bodes well for Flacco, who tends to favor his tight ends.
Jacksonville presents a different challenge for Baltimore. They boast arguably one of the better defensive unit the game has seen, with their strengths playing into the Ravens weaknesses. The Jaguars excel at eliminating the passing game and coming away with turnovers, while the Ravens haven't had many difference makers — if any — in the passing game. The Ravens have been fielding a makeshift offensive line while the Jaguars have been sacking the quarterback with tremendous consistency all year long. Even on the offensive side of the ball the Jaguars have been able to limit Blake Bortles’ turnovers, as the fourth year quarterback has stung together the most consistent stretch of his career.
Given the choice between playing the Chiefs or Jaguars, I’d strongly believe the Ravens would prefer the Chiefs. They’re a team that has struggled defensively, which could play into the hands of a Ravens team that has found sudden life on offense. On defense, the Ravens could pose issues for Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt, but would need to sure up there defense for Travis Kelce, as tight ends have shredded Baltimore all season long. With all of that in mind, the Chiefs would give the Ravens the most favorable first round matchup — one that they stand a decent chance of winning. After that it would be a trip to New England in all likelihood and another chapter in the postseason rivalry those two teams have endured over the years. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though — the Ravens still have two regular season games to take care of before the postseason comes into play.
Which team would the Ravens prefer to face in the Wildcard Round?
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