Wild-Card match-up: Sunday, January 9th, 1pm
Time to Step Up
The Baltimore Ravens (12-4) take on AFC West Division winner Kansas City Chiefs (10-6). The Chiefs have a dynamic running game and always play tough at home. Their first playoff game in four years, the Chiefs are hungry for a post season victory. The Ravens have been in this position before as a Wild Card team for the third consecutive year. While the defense has improved on the season, the offense has not been consistent for the Ravens. In order for the team to make as serious Super Bowl run the offense must find a way to score points consistently.
It’s all about the run game and big passing plays for the Chiefs. QB Matt Cassel has a 93.0 passing rating, has thrown for 3116 yards with 27 TD’s and only 7 interceptions. Although Cassel did throw 2 interceptions against the Raiders this past Sunday, he has been careful with the football for most of the season. The running game is lead by the dynamic Jamaal Charles who has 1467 yards, with a lofty 6.38 yards per carry. Charles is also a threat in the passing game as well with 45 receptions for 468 yards and a 10.4 yard average. Running back Thomas Jones is the power back with 896 yards with 6 TD’s. The threat in the passing game is receiver Dwayne Bowe who leads the team in receptions with 72 for 1162 yards, 16.1 average. Bowe is a fast and physical receiver with a knack for the end-zone producing 15 TD’s. Rookie tight end Tony Moeaki, is an excellent receiver and is having a productive season. Moeaki, is second on the team in receptions, 47 for 556 and 11.6 yards per reception. Another option for Cassel is veteran WR Chris Chambers who should not be overlooked by defenses. Rookie Dexter McCluster is a versatile and explosive player utilized as a receiver and has excelled in the kick return game as well.
Defensively the unit has playmakers. Veteran LB Mike Vrabel provides veteran leadership and postseason experience. Upfront OLB Tamba Hali has come on strong this year with 14.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. ILB Derrick Johnson leads the team in tackles with 121 and 4 forced fumbles, 1 sack and 1 INT. DE Wallace Gilberry has 7 sacks on the season with 2 forced fumble. DE Glenn Dorsey has 2 sacks and 69 tackles, plays the run well. Rookie SS Eric Berry, the Chiefs 5th pick in the draft has proven to be the right choice with 92 tackles, 4 interceptions, 2 sacks and 1 forced fumble. Berry is capable in defending the pass and strong against the run. Cornerback Brandon Flowers is a capable corner with 2 interceptions and 14 pass deflections.
RB Jamaal Charles vs. Ravens Front 7: This will be the key to the game. The Ravens unit finished the regular season ranked 5th (93.9) in stopping the run and the Chiefs ranked first in rushing with 164.2 yards. Though QB Matt Cassell is playing well this season, the Chiefs want to establish the run–and they have the firepower to do so. Jamal Charles and Thomas Jones make a formidable tandem. Look for the Ravens to make stopping the run a priority.
NT Haloti Ngata vs. C Casey Weigmann: Center Weigmann has done a good job this year taking on defensive tackles enabling the run game. Ngata will need to fight some double teams to slow down the run game. Look for Ngata to gain an edge by lining up in some different spots at the line of scrimmage.
CB Josh Wilson vs. WR Dwayne Bowe: The Ravens will try to bracket the Chiefs weapon at receiver from the big passing plays.
FS Ed Reed vs. QB Matt Cassel: Cassel have been consistent and Reed is always a factor in the playoffs.
OLB ‘T-Sizzle’ vs. LT Branden Albert: The Chiefs left tackle hasn’t been as consistent as the team would like. Along with having a better season rushing the passer, Terrell Suggs has always plays the run well.
LT Oher/Ravens O-line vs. OLB Tamba Hali: Flacco has been sacked a total of 40 times. The Chiefs OLB Hali has come on strong this season with 14.5 sacks. Kansas City’s defensive unit has 38 sacks and 18 forced fumbles in the regular season.
RB Ray Rice vs. Chiefs’ Front 7: It all falls on Ray Rice to get the offense rolling. ILB Derrick Johnson and OLB Tamba Hali have played well this season. Kansas City finished the regular season ranked 14th (110.2 yards) against the run.
WHO MAKES THE HIGHLIGHT FILM
Jonathan Scruggs: Matt Birk
The offensive line has suddenly found itself in shambles. With injuries to Michael Oher, and general inconsistent play all season long, it will be incumbent upon Matt Birk to rally his soldiers and get them all on the same page. He is the veteran, he is the leader. For good or ill, the fate of this unit lies on his shoulders.
Matt Jergensen: Ed Reed
“Reed loves the playoffs and often plays his best in the big games. In 7 career post-season games he has 7 interceptions. Matt Cassel better have one eye on the ballhawk at all times.”
Gene Winner: Anquan Boldin
“This is why the Ravens made the trade for Boldin– the playoffs. Time for Flacco and the offense to step up and that requires getting the football to Boldin. “
BY THE NUMBERS
Points: ranked 14th (22.9)
Passing yards: 30th (185.5)
Rushing yards: 1st (164.2)
Points allowed: 11th (20.4)
Passing yards: 17th (219.9)
Rushing yards: 14th (110.2)