Posted by Josh Katzowitz
CBSSports.com's patented and award-winning 7-point playoff preview gets you ready for each and every playoff game. And as an added bonus, check out our playoff podcast preview:
1. Baltimore Ravens (No. 5, AFC, 12-4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (No. 4, AFC, 10-6)
Despite the fifth seed, the Ravens have to be considered one of the favorites for the AFC title. The Chiefs catch a break by playing Baltimore at Arrowhead Stadium – where Kansas City is tough to beat – but Todd Haley’s squad will be considered the underdogs in this one. The Chiefs aren’t as healthy, they’re not as experienced in the postseason and they’re simply not as talented as the Ravens. Simple as that.
2. PLAYOFFS?! Watchability Ranking
After such a hot start to the season, Kansas City wasn’t quite as impressive in the final, oh, 13 games of the season, going an unremarkable (though by AFC West standards, phenomenal) 7-6. But you have to remember, the Chiefs went 2-4 in division play, and, in case you didn’t know, that’s not real good. Besides, in the playoffs you like to see top QBs go head to head (Manning vs. Brady; Favre vs. Vick; etc.). Matt Cassel vs. Joe Flacco isn’t quite as enticing and therefore, only worth 3/5 Moras.
3. Key Matchup to Watch: Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. Chiefs LBs
In the Chiefs 3-4 defensive scheme, Kansas City’s LBs are counted on to help stop the opponent’s run game. Overall this season, the Chiefs were pretty average in this regard, ranking 14th in the league by allowing 109.4 rushing yards per game. And Rice is anything but average.
You already know about the 1,220 yards gained this season and the five rushing touchdowns to go with it, but Rice has become of the league’s premier rushers in part because he doesn’t lose fumbles. That’s right. This season, despite 307 carries and 63 catches, Rice fumbled the ball exactly zero times. The Chiefs, by the way, caused 15 fumbles this season, the eighth-best mark in the league.
Kansas City has gotten good production out of LB Tamba Hali – he’s been the most explosive of his career this season with an AFC-best 14.5 sacks – and LB Derrick Johnson on the inside has been more than solid for the Chiefs.
If Hall and company can slow down Rice and make him less effective, that will allow the Chiefs to target Baltimore QB Joe Flacco, who doesn’t play great under constant pressure from the defense. But even then, Rice is still a big part of the team’s offense, catching a variety of passes out of the backfield.
He’s not easy to stop – the Steelers are the only squad this season to make Rice irrelevant – but if the Chiefs linebackers can slow him down, that’ll be a big help in pulling the upset.
4. Potentially Relevant Video
When Chiefs DE Shaun Smith played in Cincinnati, one of the local scribes nicknamed him "Hamburglar." In fact, one day, the reporter asked him if it was OK to call him by the new nickname, and Smith responded, "That’s fine. I like it." That’s why this video is so relevant.
Besides, the McDonald’s gag is better than any number of videos that the infamous Smith could have been involved with this season.
Like this one where, before viewing, you must turn your head to the side and cough.
5. The Chiefs will win if ...
They can continue to rely on their running game. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones have combined for 2,363 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and with their help, Cassel hasn’t had to be the one to hoist the team on his shoulders.
6. The Ravens will win if ...
They force Cassel to have to beat them. Baltimore ranks fifth in the league against the run, and if they can force Kansas City into third and longs – or better yet, build a big enough lead that would turn the Chiefs into a pass-heavy offense – the Ravens will earn their third road playoff victory in the past three seasons.
7. Prediction: Ravens 20, Chiefs 7