With the Kansas City Chiefs victory over the Buffalo Bills, the Baltimore Ravens finally have their opponent for the AFC Championship set in stone, and while the game is still five days away, it’s never too early to evaluate these two football titans and how they will fair against one another in the big game.
The Ravens, fresh off a 34-10 win in the divisional round over the Houston Texans, come in as hot as any team in the league. Behind their vaunted defense and MVP quarterback, the Ravens have dismantled nearly every team in their path over the second half of the season, including multiple playoff teams. Per Aaron Schatz, they sport the highest weighted DVOA of any team post-divisional round since the metric was implemented, 55.2%. Additionally, they now have the most wins over opponents with a winning record in the Super Bowl era – 11. The three teams with 10+ wins over winning teams all ended up winning the Super Bowl.
The Chiefs have been impressive in their own respect over the last two weeks. After handling the Miami Dolphins in the Wild-Card round, Kansas City won narrowly over a very good Bills team in Buffalo, a feat that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback of the generation and has led the Chiefs to six straight AFC Championship games. Their offense seems to be finding it’s groove and they feature a defense that has been second to the Ravens in a few categories.
While the Ravens have been more impressive than Kansas City in almost every respect this season, there is still something to be said for the Chiefs championship pedigree. Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes have played in more big games than anyone over the last six seasons and will not be intimidated by the moment.
From my perspective, the Ravens win over Houston was a big deal. Obviously, it’s a win or go-home scenario, but the fact that they have the bad juju of previous playoff failures off their mind is huge. Additionally, any “rust” that accumulated during their extended bye should be gone by now. Expect them to come out a little sharper than last week, early on.
The entire aura of the moment seems somewhat mysterious. An AFC Championship game? In Baltimore? During the day? If it sounds unique, it is. The Ravens have never hosted an AFC Championship, and the Chiefs have played the last five at Arrowhead Stadium. In fact, it will be the first championship game in over two decades played somewhere other than New England, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Denver, or Kansas City.
I said it last week about Houston and I’ll say it again, the Chiefs will be walking into a buzz-saw. The Texans, fresh off scoring 45 points over the Browns the week prior, didn’t reach the red zone against Baltimore. The Texans scored touchdowns in every game this year expect two. Guess which ones. The Bills and Dolphins, while very good teams, had many flaws. Both were decimated defensively and seemed somewhat limited and reliant on the greatness of one particular player on offense. For the Dolphins, Tyreek Hill. For the Bills, Josh Allen.
Kansas City, while great defensively, hasn’t seen a player or offense like Jackson and Baltimore. Jackson has finally rounded into his final form. His one weakness, the blitz, was completely dismantled in the second half thanks to some savvy Todd Monken play calling and execution by Jackson and company. Want to blitz him? They’ll have answers. Want to drop into coverage? Jackson will by as much time as he needs for a receiver to get open. Spies don’t work on him and keeping multiple linebackers inside exposes the boundaries, an area of the field where he’s excelled throwing to this season. The Ravens have faced a number of great defenses and defensive coordinators this year. Vic Fangio, Jim Schwartz, DeMeco Ryans, Lou Anarumo and more. All have been handled with ease. Now, they face the ultimate test in Steve Spagnuolo and the Chiefs.
One thing is for certain, Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and Steve Spagnola will have a plan. It’s important for the Ravens to adjust like they did on Saturday and not wavier from what makes them the Baltimore Ravens: Physicality and toughness. As Patrick Queen said, “We play a brand of football that other teams don’t want to play.”
It’s Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes. For a trip to the Super Bowl. Lamar Jackson promised on his draft night that he would bring a Super Bowl to the city of Baltimore. Well, there’s no time like the present. This might be the best Ravens team in franchise history and while Jackson will be donning the purple and black for years to come, it’s tough to say they’ll have a better roster than they do right now.
Baltimore weighted DVOA:
Kansas City weighted DVOA:
Baltimore Offensive/Defensive PPG:
Kansas City Offensive/Defensive PPG:
Team PFF Grade:
Kansas City: (8th)
*Kansas City’s DVOA is weighted down due to playing the 23rd hardest schedule in the league compared to Baltimore, who had the 3rd most difficult.
*Baltimore had the highest point-differential in the league (+203). Kansas City was 6th (+77).