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For Ravens, the Road to Dallas Begins in Kansas City

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For the third straight season, the Baltimore Ravens have stamped their ticket to the playoffs. Just like the past two playoff experiences, they must go on the road into enemy territory as the wild card team. This weekend, they will face a young team that has exceeded expectations and has threat on the ground and in the air. If the Ravens want to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, they must contain the dangerous running game in order to advance.

Charles is in Charge

If you’ve watched the Chiefs play before, it is easy to see what makes their offense run on all cylinders. Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles must be contained by Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense. If the Ravens stop him, they’ll put pressure on Chiefs QB Matt Cassel to air it out, while Ed Reed looms in the backfield. But this will be no easy task. Charles is 9th in the NFL in rushing, with 1,467 yards and 5 touchdowns.

If the Ravens focus on one stop at a time and hold Charles to under 4 yards a carry, they will be able to keep the pressure on the quarterback— potentially forcing turnovers. Turnovers in a playoff game are key to insuring a victory.

Cassel vs Flacco

Ravens QB Joe Flacco has overcome a tough season filled with ups and downs. The one huge advantage he has coming into this game is playoff experience, especially on the road. Flacco has played in 5 playoff games in his first three seasons, with a 3-2 record. He has tasted the sweet success of playoff victory, as well as the sour taste of defeat.

Chiefs QB Matt Cassel on the other hand will be playing in his first ever playoff game. I think being in a playoff situation where everything is on the line comes in handy because you know that in the playoffs, momentum can swing in an instant. The one advantage that Cassel has over Flacco is playing with the mentality of having nothing to lose. When the season started this year, nobody was picking Kansas City to win their division. The Chiefs had success because they are a team that is young and hungry. If the Ravens do not come in and take care of business right away, this young team will feed off the energy of just making it to the postseason. The Chiefs will also have a crowd that has not seen their team in the playoffs since the 90′s, so you better bet that Arrowhead Stadium will be rocking. If the Ravens take an early lead, it will help silence the crowd.

I see the Ravens continuing their success in the opening round of the playoffs. I feel that Ray Rice will have a successful game on the ground and that the Ravens defensive line will exploit the weak offensive line of the Chiefs— which the Oakland Raiders uncovered last week when they defeated them, 31-10. The Ravens over the Chiefs, 21-10.

For those of you in L.A., see you at the Parlor on Sunday morning. GO RAVENS!

Wild Card Weekend

Here are my quick takes on the other games being played this weekend:

New Orleans Saints vs Seattle Seahawks:
This is probably the least interesting game of the weekend. The Seahawks got into the playoffs only because they were in a weak division. The only thing they have going for them is a stadium that is arguably the loudest in the NFL. Saints are double-digit favorites, and I don’t see them slipping up against a poor defense. Saints over Seahawks, 28-10

New York Jets vs Indianapolis Colts:
This will be a very good match-up, hence why it is the prime-time game Saturday night. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan has been running his mouth all week and claims that this game is “personal”. I never bet against Peyton Manning at home and in the playoffs. I see this one going down to the wire, with a game-winning drive by Peyton that ends with a 35-yard field goal and time running out. Colts over Jets, 17-14.

Green Bay Packers vs Philadelphia Eagles:
The Chicago Bears had their chance to get rid of the Packers last week, but couldn’t do it. This will come back to bite them. This Packer team is very dangerous now that QB Aaron Rodgers has seemed to recover from a concussion he suffered a few weeks back. Eagles QB Michael Vick has been playing out of his mind and is in the running for MVP of the league. Yet the past few weeks, Vick has struggled to get time to throw the ball; he has been constantly scrambling out of the pocket, leading to an increase number of sacks. The Packers defense is quick and has the pass rushers to get in Vick’s face and make his night a living hell. Packers over the Eagles, 24-17