Sunday opens a new chapter for Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs as they visit the Baltimore Ravens. Kansas City is coming off an intense victory against the Buffalo Bills in another instant classic. The challenges come no easier to Kansas City as they visit the number one seed Ravens boasted by MVP favourite Lamar Jackson. The Ravens dominated the second half scoring 24 unanswered points to eliminate the Texans. Both teams rank within the top 10 in total offence and defence. This is set to be a balanced attack from all angles. These teams last played in 2021 with Baltimore taking a narrow 36-35 victory.
These two quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, have very different storylines following them into this highly contested match up. Mahomes has been the golden boy in the NFL since becoming a starter. Since then, he has made the AFC Championship game each year and is sporting a 3-2 record. Mahomes is looking to join the company of Tom Brady, as a quarterback that we should never doubt.
On the flip side, Lamar Jackson is trying to dispel every narrative about his inability to perform in the playoffs. Since becoming a starter towards the tail end of the 2018 season, Jackson has a 2-3 record in the playoffs. That also includes two byes of the Wild Card Round. Despite winning the 2019 MVP and two number one seeds in his time as Ravens starter, there have been doubts about Lamar in big games. This is as big as they get and Lamar is ready to back up his Draft Day quote.
“They’re going to get a Super Bowl out of me. Believe that.”
In big games like this, you expect quarterback play and the big names to take centre stage. Let’s check in on the position groups, or not household names, that will decide the AFC’s representative in the Super Bowl. All-Pro Kyle Hamilton joined elite company by becoming the first player since Tyrann Mathieu to have at least 4 interceptions, and double-digit tackles for loss in a season. While Hamilton is an all-pro, look for this jack-of-all-trades safety to have a breakout performance on the national stage. For the Chiefs, the targets surrounding Travis Kelce will likely have to step up, as he will likely be the focal point of the Ravens’ 6th-ranked passing defence. Look for Rashee Rice and Marques Valdez-Scantling to pick up the majority of the slack in the passing game.
The news on the injury front is looking a lot more positive for the home side in this contest. Mark Andrews will be available for his first contest since November suffering from an ankle injury. Marlon Humphrey missed the Ravens opening contest against the Texans with a calf injury but has been practising this week. The Chiefs side is not as positive heading into this contest. All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney will miss the title game from a pectoral injury suffered during the win in Buffalo. Also running back Isaiah Pacheco who was limited in practice on Friday, is officially listed as questionable in Baltimore.
Now this may be another feather into the early career success of Patrick Mahomes or another rival will be born for the Chiefs QB. Whether we see Lamar Jackson get over the hump or continued success in the potential dynasty in Kansas City this is a crossroads in the future of the AFC with ramifications that could affect the next decade.