Last week, the Ravens survived a scare from the Bengals, winning 13-7 to finish the year 12-4. With the Steelers win over the Browns, the Ravens hold the #5 seed despite this win. Ed Reed recorded yet another multi-interception game, making his total 8 interceptions on the season, which leads the NFL at the end of the regular season. Reed's picks were two of five turnovers on the day for the Bengals. The Ravens lead the game 6-0 at the half, with Cundiff hitting field goals from 25 and 47 yards. The lead was extended in the third quarter when Ray Rice ran in for a 7-yard touchdown. The Bengals quickly made it a game again, as Carson Palmer connected with Jerome Simpson for an 11-yard touchdown. Over the next 10 minutes or so, the teams all but exchanged punts. But in the final minutes of the game, the Bengals drove down the field at will. Then, on 4th down from the Ravens 2 yard line, Palmer threw incomplete to end the game. The Ravens suffered costly injuries throughout this game, including Josh Wilson and Michael Oher. Their status' for Sunday's game are yet to be determined.
Player of the Game: Ravens S Ed Reed-2 interceptions, 2 tackles
Next Sunday, the Ravens will head to Kansas City to face the AFC West Champion Chiefs. This is the first playoff matchup between the two teams. Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, so the Ravens will have to be careful of early jumps due to the noise. The Ravens could be highly affected by key injuries to be determined sometime Sunday morning. Ravens WR Anquan Boldin is going against his former offensive coordinator, current Chiefs Head Coach Todd Haley. The two have a less than polite history after disagreements throughout their player-coach relationship during their time with the Cardinals. This probably won't have too much an effect on the game, but look for Boldin to want some revenge, and it could be interesting to see if Flacco lets him get it by involving him more in the gameplan on Sunday. The Chiefs have relied on an explosive young offense to lead the way, so look for them to try and get the Ravens defense on some big plays using guys like RB Jamaal Charles and WRs Dexter McCluster and Dwayne Bowe. Bowe has established himself as a top receiver in the league, so the Chiefs could look to him for that big play. If the Ravens can stop that big play offense and contain them to short gains, they can spend less time on the field, and more time resting on the sideline, which means more points for the Ravens on offense. The few strong points on the Chiefs defense could be the key to this game for them. Their stars on defense include DE Glenn Dorsey, CB Brandon Flowers, and LB Tamba Hali. If Flacco and the Ravens offense are aware of their presence on defense, they can limit their effectiveness by planning their way around these defenders. I think the Chiefs' overall inconsistency will hurt them as they try to succeed in this game, and I have the Ravens moving on with a 23-13 win.
Ravens Key to Success: Start off strong. A strong start could prove key for both teams, as in an atmosphere like Kansas City, a dead crowd often means a victory for the road team. If the Ravens get the fans out of it early, they can control the game's momentum all the way through.
Chiefs Key to Success: Chip away on offense. We've learned that the Ravens defense is prone to breaking down when tired late in the game. If the Chiefs can pound at them early, and then go for the big shot later on, they could take everything away from this Ravens defense, thus controlling the final minutes of this crucial Wild Card battle.
Key Matchups for Ravens at Chiefs
Ravens CB Chris Carr vs. Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe Edge: Bowe
Ravens LB Terrell Suggs vs. Chiefs LT Brendan Albert Edge: Suggs
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Chiefs LB Tamba Hali Edge: Hali
Ravens WR Anquan Boldin vs. Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers Edge: Boldin
LB Dannell Ellerbe-Head-QST
LB Tavares Gooden-Shoulder-QST
DT Haloti Ngata-Thigh-QST
S Ed Reed-Chest-QST
LB Terrell Suggs-Knee-QST
CB Josh Wilson-Head-QST
S Tom Zbikowski-Back-QST
Note: Ed Reed will play Sunday despite the disappearance of his brother on Friday.
WR Quentin Lawrence-Illness-PRB
G Brian Waters-Illness-PRB
AFC Wild Card Round
#5 Ravens at #4 Chiefs
# 6 Jets at #3 Colts
Divisional Round Situations: There is no automatic team the Ravens will play if they beat the Chiefs Sunday. If the Ravens and Colts win, the Ravens will travel to New England to play the Patriots. If the Ravens and Jets win, the Ravens will travel to Pittsburgh and play the Steelers.
That's it for this week's version of my Ravens Report, see you next week and Go Ravens!