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AFC Championship Preview

Can the Ravens stop the Chiefs on Kansas City’s quest for back to back Super Bowl titles?

For the sixth consecutive year, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs are playing in the AFC Championship game. However, for the first time during this stretch of dominance, they won’t be playing the game at home. Instead, they’re travelling to Baltimore to take on Lamar Jackson and the high-flying Ravens. These Ravens are currently a 3.5-point favorite for Sunday’s game, while the over/under is set at 44.5 points.

The Chiefs

So, how does Kansas City get back to the biggest game of the year? With Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce leading the way, of course. Baltimore’s defence is one of the best units in the league, and if the Chiefs want to escape with a win, they’ll need to be moving the ball consistently. Despite a down year by his standards, Kelce does seem to be coming into form at the right time for Kansas City, as his two-touchdown effort last weekend was his first of the year and the ten targets he received against Miami was tied for the most since Week 6. 

Outside of Kelce, I expect Rashee Rice and Isiah Pacheco to also play a large role for Andy Reid’s offence. Rice has been the clear WR1 for Mahomes in the postseason, grabbing twelve passes for 177 yards and a touchdown over the two games, while the next closest receiver has just three receptions. Pacheco will once again control the ground game, but if the Chiefs are fighting from behind, don’t be shocked to see him getting involved in the pass game too. He’s also scored a touchdown in each of the team’s last six games, so expect to see that usage continue in the red zone. 

Defensively, it’s never easy to stop Lamar Jackson. However, if there was any Chiefs defence in recent history equipped to get the job done, it might be this one. The unit was ranked second in both yards and points against this year, and with guys like Chris Jones, Willie Gay, and L’Jarius Sneed back there, nothing will come easy for Baltimore. Kansas City will need to keep Lamar contained on Sunday and not let him win the game with his legs, but that’s far easier said than done.

The Ravens

Yes, their opponents are playing in their sixth straight AFC Championship Game, but the Ravens were the conference’s top seed this year for a reason, and they’ll be intending to show exactly that on Sunday. Besides their Week 18 loss to Pittsburgh in which they sat a lot of their starters, Baltimore only fell three times this year by a combined 12 points. It’s no stretch to say that they certainly could have won all those games, too. With Lamar Jackson playing some of the best football of his career surrounded by more talent than the team has had since he was drafted, it’s no wonder Baltimore comes into this game as the favorites. 

Offensively, the return of Mark Andrews in the AFC Championship would be massive. The star tight end is trending in the right direction right now and if he can go, Baltimore will only get tougher to stop. At the end of the day, though, this team will go how Jackson goes. If Lamar runs with the ball like he did last week, I think the Ravens will once again be very tough to stop. Against Houston, the MVP favorite had eleven rushes for 100 yards while throwing for an additional 152 yards and two scores. 

On defence, I expect John Harbaugh and Mike Macdonald to have a great scheme ready Patrick Mahomes. Like Jackson, Mahomes has a talent that can’t really be game planned for, but this Baltimore defence will have as good a chance to stop him as any. They absolutely dominated Houston last week, and if things go well early, the momentum from the home crowd will be a massive factor throughout the afternoon for both sides of the ball, but especially for this unit. 

AFC Championship Pick

This game should be a GREAT one. On one side, we’ve got all the playoff experience and pedigree, but on the other, we’ve got a top seeded team hungry to prove themselves in the playoffs. It’s no secret that Patrick Mahomes has an uncanny ability to turn things up in the postseason, but this Baltimore team really is the best they’ve been in the Lamar Jackson era. I think the Ravens will make it hard on the Chiefs’ offence all game, and because of that, I’ll take the Ravens to win the AFC Championship.

Kansas City has had issues with their receivers all season, and I think that Baltimore will do a great job of forcing Mahomes to throw the ball away from Kelce or Rice. On the other side of the ball, Lamar, Mark Andrews and the rest of the offence will do just enough to push this team back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2012.

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