To be the man, you have to beat the man. The Baltimore Ravens are set to face off against the reigning champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the AFC Championship. Although the Ravens are a battle-tested football team, the Kansas City Chiefs have been the benchmark for playoff success. This will be Patrick Mahomes' sixth straight AFC Championship appearance since taking over as quarterback for Kansas City. The matchup between the two will be Baltimore’s toughest test. They'll be hosting an AFC Championship game for the first time since 1970 when they were the Baltimore Colts. However, this Ravens team is no stranger to dismantling good teams.
This year, Baltimore has defied the odds with over 10 wins against teams with a .500 record or better. Despite Kansas City’s familiarity with the championship round, Baltimore has the tools. both offensively and defensively. to win against the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs. Let’s take a look at some key factors that could play a massive role in this game.
Kansas City Offense vs Baltimore Defense
Patrick Mahomes is arguably the most talented quarterback the NFL has ever witnessed. His ability to throw the ball perfectly under any circumstance, mixed with his elite improvising, causes many problems for defenses. This year, however, Kansas City’s offense has struggled in some games due to a lack of talent and depth in their wide receiver room. Despite that, the Chiefs found a way to make a sixth straight AFC Championship appearance. They have leaned on running back Isiah Pacheco, as well as their flashy second-round pick Rashee Rice out of SMU. That is when their Hall of Fame tight end, Travis Kelce, can't make plays, which has been an issue all year.
How will this unit fair against the suffocating Ravens defense, which led in points allowed (16.5 per game), sacks (60), and takeaways (31)? Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald, has put several players in a position to succeed, leading to three players with nine sacks or more. This defense, led by All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith, is up to the challenge. It’s no secret that Kansas City’s offense is more vulnerable than in recent years. If they can take Kelce out of the game through double teams, and find a way to slow down Pacheco and Rice, Patrick Mahomes could be in for a long day.
Lamar Jackson vs Steve Spagnuolo
Lamar Jackson is on his way to his second MVP award, the first player to ever do so before turning 26. He's amassed 821 yards rushing with five touchdowns, plus 3,678 passing yards with 24 touchdowns. All while leading his team to their first home AFC Championship game. There’s no question Lamar is the most dynamic quarterback we’ve seen to date, but this week he’s going up against a very tough Kansas City defense. The Chiefs' defense accumulated 54 sacks and 17 takeaways, while only giving up only 17.3 points per game.
The defense features linebacker Nick Bolton, defensive tackle Chris Jones, and an elite corner duo of Trent McDuffie and L’Jarius Sneed. Although they don’t have an extraordinary defense on paper, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has done an amazing job with the tools he's had. They have only surrendered 176.5 passing yards a game, 4th best in the league in that regard. However, they allow over 113.2 rush yards a game, which ranks 17th amongst NFL defenses. The Ravens come into this matchup averaging 156.5 rush yards a game, which may provide a problem for Kansas City down the stretch.
Home Field Advantage
M&T Bank Stadium was filled with over 70,000 of the loudest fanbase during last week's divisional matchup against the Houston Texans. The fans were so loud the Texans had five false starts. This isn't new by any means. Throughout the 2023 season, opponents that traveled to Baltimore had 19 total false starts and nine delay of game penalties. Both were the most in the NFL. Baltimore must make as much noise as possible, considering that Kansas City received 19 total false start calls this year. Something as small as a delay of game calls might be the deciding factor in a game of this magnitude.
Main Image via