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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson takes off in the open field. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
January 26th, 2024
After playing the AFC Championship Game at home the past five seasons, Kansas City must travel to a difficult environment on Sunday. The Chiefs enter on a 4-0 ATS run, but they’ve faced banged-up Miami and Buffalo defenses the last two weeks that were vulnerable. Baltimore doesn’t have the same weaknesses, and the Chiefs lack the same firepower from previous Patrick Mahomes-led teams.
Baltimore, which expects to have tight end Mark Andrews and safety Marlon Humphrey back this week, is firing on all cylinders defensively. The Ravens have been playing at a higher level than any team since November and overcame some early rust to dominate the Divisional Round last week, pulling away from Houston 34-10.
A heavyweight matchup awaits in Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/3pe7LKxc7C— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 26, 2024
A heavyweight matchup awaits in Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/3pe7LKxc7C
The Chiefs must deal with recent injuries. All-Pro guard Joe Thuney, the key cog to the offensive line the last two seasons, is out after being injured against Buffalo. Defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi went down in the wild-card round, linebacker Willie Gay re-aggravated a neck injury and missed the Buffalo game, and safety Mike Edwards is in concussion protocol after being knocked out last week.
Excluding the season finale when they rested their starters, the Ravens are 6-1 ATS over their last seven games, and they’ve outscored the last three playoff teams they’ve faced (Houston, Miami, and San Francisco) by an average margin of 41-16.
The Ravens didn’t need to pass much in the Divisional Round, outgaining Houston by a 229-38 margin in rushing yards, but Baltimore has the versatility to exploit defenses with an improved passing attack, as Lamar Jackson threw for a combined 573 yards and seven touchdowns in the two previous games (Miami and San Francisco) he started.
Kansas City, which was the lowest-scoring team in the fourth quarter until the latter part of the season, escaped Buffalo in the Divisional Round, as the Bills missed a chance to win late and botched a game-tying field goal after outgaining Kansas City in total yards and dominating time of possession. The Chiefs won’t have the same margin for error Sunday.
Baltimore will keep their momentum rolling with a convincing win.
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YouBet AFC Championship pick: Baltimore -4
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore): Over 210.5 passing yards -130
Zay Flowers (Baltimore): Over 42.5 receiving yards -110
Isiah Pacheco (Kansas City): Under 63.5 rushing yards -110
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