When on Offense
- Rice Treats: The Ravens have struggled offensively when they fail to get Ray Rice untracked so it will be no surprise to see the Chiefs deploy the prerequisite resources to stop the multi-talented back and put the game in the hands of QB Joe Flacco. Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron undoubtedly is mindful of this and he’ll need to manage down and distance by using the pass to set up the run early in the game. Once established, the Ravens can then run from a spread formation and as the game progresses use Rice to set up play action opportunities down field.
- Flacco Tempo: Joe Flacco is a rhythmic passer and it will be important to get him going early. The Ravens did exactly that against the Chiefs on opening day 2009, a game they won 38-24 behind 307 passing yards (175 in the first half) from the then second year signal caller. Flacco is most comfortable from the shotgun which will help him see the field better and keep a watchful eye on the Chiefs’ dangerous DE/OLB Tamba Hali. Flacco prefers to throw outside the hash marks but he can be very effective in the middle as well if the Chiefs fail to disguise their coverages with post-snap rotations. Eighteen of his 25 TD passes this season took place inside the numbers.
- Protect the football: The Ravens are battle tested road warriors in the post season, leading the league with 3 playoff victories away from home during the past two seasons. A large part of their success stems from the ability to minimize giveaways. Baltimore is 8-1 in the playoffs when they have a plus turnover margin.
When on Defense
1. Ground the Ground Game: A huge part of Kansas City’s success is tied directly to their league leading ground game sparked by the dangerous Jamaal Charles. Charles has been compared often (and rightly so) to Tennessee’s Chris Johnson and the Ravens 5th ranked rushing defense will look to put the clamps on him. Few teams have done that to Charles but choking off the run is a staple of the Ravens’ defense.
2. Hit the Matt: The Ravens haven’t produced a sack in two consecutive games and while sacking Matt Cassel isn’t paramount, moving him off his mark with pressures is. The KC offensive line struggled mightily against the Raiders last week (7 sacks, 15 QB hurries) in part because Oakland stopped the run on early downs forcing the Chiefs to become one dimensional. Once Cassel was forced to throw he was highly ineffective and finished the game with an abysmal performance11 of 33 for 115 yards and 2 interceptions. Watch out for Ed Reed.
3. Bracket Bowe: Baltimore has been effective preventing the home run this season, allowing only 5 passing plays of 40+ yards. Much of that success can be attributed to the league’s best ball hawk, Ed Reed. Despite a below average pass rush the Ravens’ corners have played well and when supported by the over-the-top bracketing from Reed they’ve been able to control the NFL’s premier receivers. Expect a similar effort against the dangerous Dwayne Bowe on Sunday.
Turf Battles: Field position is always key in the post season and the Ravens have two of the game’s best kickers to help them manage it. PK Billy Cundiff tied an NFL record for touchbacks with 40 while P Sam Koch was second in the league with 39 punts inside the 20, 22 of which were inside the 10. A long field bodes well for the Ravens bend but don’t break often defense.
- The Ravens are 23-1 under John Harbaugh (since 2008), when scoring 24 or more points.
- The Ravens are 9-2 in their last 11 games against the AFC West, producing six consecutive victories (all under John Harbaugh).
- Baltimore’s 3.1 yards per carry allowed average is the best mark in NFL postseason history.