The stage is set, and the winner gets a trip to Sin City to play in Super 58. The reigning Super Bowl champ Kansas City Chiefs are traveling to Baltimore to face off against the Ravens. Both teams had much different paths to this point, but it should be a great matchup to watch. Here’s our 2023 AFC Championship game preview.
How They Got Here
The Ravens have looked like the best team in the NFL for most of the regular season and they really put an exclamation point on that during the Christmas night game where they dominated the NFC 1-seed 49ers by a blowout margin. Lamar Jackson all but locked up his second league MVP and the Ravens have one of the top defenses in the league. They played in what was one of the toughest divisions in the NFL in 2023 and came away unscathed. They had the wildcard weekend off and didn’t struggle too much with the Texans in the divisional game.
The Chiefs were an entirely different story altogether. For the first time in the Patrick Mahomes era, they really seemed to struggle at times during the regular season. They lost 6 games in 2023 and struggled against teams that weren’t all that good. The wide receiver corps was the biggest issue and Travis Kelce went through the worst stretch of his career. As the Chiefs were imploding on the field, all the attention off it went to Taylor Swift. Yet, the playoffs hit, and the Chiefs look like their former selves. They took down the Dolphins easily and then pulled away from the Bills.
For the Ravens, I look at Lamar and wonder if the playoff woes that he has faced in the past will come back to haunt him in this game? The big stage hasn’t always been kind to him, and this is easily the biggest game of his career. He has never had more to lose and that can mess with a QB’s head.
For the Chiefs, it’s whether a wide receiver can step up and dominate? Will it be Rashee Rice, or will Mahomes have to just rely on his tight end and his running game? They haven’t had consistent play at that position all season long and it could be the difference here.
Keys to a Win
Ravens – I’ll go back to Lamar on this one. He must play as he has played all season long. It can be with his legs or his arms. Hell, it can even be by just handing it off to his talented running back group. But he must keep control on the turnovers and just play his game.
Chiefs – Get Kelce going. If they can dominate over the middle, they will make it a long day for the Ravens defense. Ravens S Kyle Hamilton is a star and will likely be tasked with a lot of that action.
I am all in on the Ravens. The Chiefs have been a bit hit and miss all year long and I’ve not seen the Ravens stumble. I like Baltimore, 31-20.