The Seattle Seahawks upset of the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints is proof positive why parity in the NFL is a wonderful thing. Would you really consider the Jets defeating the Colts an upset? Let’s look at today’s early game between the Ravens and Chiefs.
Baltimore Ravens (12-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) 1pm – Our thoughts and prayers are with Ed Reed and his family as the search for his brother continues. Reed has decided to play today citing that it would be his brother’s wish. It’s not for me to analyze, but I believe Ed Reed needs football today as much as his Ravens teammates need him.
The Ravens have the task of stopping the NFL’s second leading rusher in Jamaal Charles and his reliable backup Thomas Jones. Charles speed and versatility could pose a problem for a Ravens defense that gives up 95 rushing yards per game. Matt Cassell will have to get the most out of rookie tight end Tony Moeaki as a receiver and in blocking schemes. Rookie return man Dexter McCluster could be an x-factor in the return game as well as some in-game trickery. Receivers Dwayne Bowe and Chris Chambers should be their effective selves despite the possibility of shortening thier routes due to the Ravens pass rush. The Chiefs defensive success will rely on the performance of OLB Tamba Hali their young but talented secondary. If Hali can disrupt some things in the Ravens offense, Kansas City should be in decent shape. Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr and Jon McGraw are all effective, but it is rookie Eric Berry that gives this unit the spark it needs. Berry has a nose for the ball and the ability to convert any turnover into six points.
When the Ravens have the ball, its all about getting running back Ray Rice involved early and often. Rice’s ability to get into space as a receiver allows quarterback Joe Flacco to get into a rhythm without looking down field for a big play early. The tandem of Anquan Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been a disappointment. Boldin has been doubled all season while Housh has struggled in this offense. Flacco has turned to ol’ reliable Derrick Mason who has six touchdowns in his last nine games. Hopefully a recovering Todd Heap can step in and give a boost to this receiving corps.
Ray Lewis will have his men ready and they will use the tragedy affecting one of their own as more fire. The Ravens front seven is going to test the Chiefs like no team has this season. Haloti Ngata is the key to the success of the defense, period. If the Ravens are going to do anything to slow down the Chiefs offense it all starts with Ngata. The secondary has to step up as Matt Cassell at some point is going to look down field and he will be targeting corner back Ladarius Webb who has struggled recently.
The Pick: If the Ravens think that the Chiefs are going into today’s game just happy to be in the playoffs, it will be a fatal mistake. Jamaal Charles can take a game over at any time. I don’t think that Ray Lewis will allow the Ravens defense to underestimate the Chiefs on any level. The Ravens takes the onus off of Joe Flacco and plays lights out today.
Ravens 24 – Chiefs 16