Sunday, January 2, 2011
Quick Take: Ravens at Chiefs
By James Walker
Three things to know about next Sunday's Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs wild-card game:
1. Ravens catch a break: Baltimore (12-4) caught a huge break by avoiding the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round. A loss by the Chiefs (10-6) and a win by the Colts in Week 17 sent Baltimore to Kansas City. Although no playoff draw is easy, the Ravens are just 2-8 against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, including last year's playoff loss in the divisional round. Now, Manning and the Colts are the New York Jets' problem. Kansas City is a team without a lot of playoff experience, and that could work in Baltimore's favor.
2. Baltimore's offense must step up: Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome spent the past offseason beefing up the offense to perform in big games. But at times, the offense this season has been a disappointment. Baltimore traded for receiver Anquan Boldin, signed free-agent receivers T. J. Houshmandzadeh and Donte' Stallworth and drafted two rookie tight ends. The goal was to put as many weapons around third-year quarterback Joe Flacco as possible and take pressure off the defense. On paper, the Ravens are one of the most well-rounded playoff teams with the ability to win in different ways. But Baltimore's offense must prove it can be productive and consistent in the playoffs.
3. Let the seeding debate begin: Should teams be awarded for having the better season or winning the division? Baltimore won two more games than Kansas City, but the Chiefs have home-field advantage. The Ravens have been mum on the subject recently, but that's probably a sign they're not ecstatic about the seeding system after having a tremendous season. Baltimore finished second in the AFC North via a tiebreaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4), who have a first-round bye and at least one home playoff game. The Ravens are one of just four teams to finish with 12 wins in the NFL, but they probably will play their entire postseason on the road as the fifth seed.