(12-4, 8-7-1 ATS)
Kansas City Chiefs
(10-6, 9-7 ATS)
The Baltimore Ravens are a Wild Card in NFL playoff betting action for the third straight season. They are hoping that this is the third straight year that they can get into the divisional round of the tournament for the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
With 12 wins in tote, the argument could be made that this is the best version of the Ravens since the one that won the Super Bowl with QB Trent Dilfer at quarterback, and the argument could even be made that this one is even better than that. There’s no doubt that QB Joe Flacco is better than Dilfer was, as the former Delaware Blue Hen threw for 3,622 yards and 25 TDs on the season. He might be leading an offense that ranks just No. 22 overall and No. 16 in scoring, but there is clearly a lot of talent on this side. RB Ray Rice is one of the best all-purpose backs in the league, as he rushed for 1,223 yards and had 556 yards receiving, totaling six TDs. WR Derrick Mason has been a superstar for years, and this season was no different. He had 61 catches for 802 yards and seven scores. WR Anquan Boldin became, without a doubt, the best No. 2 receiver that this team has had since moving from Cleveland, putting up virtually identical numbers. We also know that this defense is outstanding, led by S Ed Reed, who led the league in picks with eight in spite of the fact that he only played in 10 games in 2010.
In previous years, if the Chiefs didn’t get anything going on the ground, they were in a lot of trouble. Now, it’s true that this squad does feel like it would fall in line with that statement, as this was the only club that even flirted with the idea of having a pair of 1,000 yard backs on the season. RBs Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones combined for 475 carries and over 2,300 yards on the season. However, QB Matt Cassel had one of the better TD/INT ratios on the season in the league at 27/7, and that number was only that bad because of the fact that he tossed two picks in a relatively meaningless Week 17 encounter with the Oakland Raiders. WR Dwayne Bowe caught 72 passes for 1,162 yards and a league high 15 TDs, and he is on his way to the Pro Bowl this year. Don’t forget about the defense either, which has a number of fantastic athletes like rookie S Eric Berry (77 tackles, 4 INTs, 2 sacks) and DE Tamba Hali (14.5 sacks, 37 tackles).
The Chiefs should put up a great fight in this one, but when push comes to shove, the last three home playoff games here at Arrowhead Stadium have all gone the way of the visitors. Baltimore is just a better team, and it should show in NFL betting action on Sunday, setting up a rematch of last year’s playoffs one way or the other for the Ravens.
NFL Free Pick: Baltimore Ravens -3