April 18, 2024

BALTIMORE — Patrick Mahomes already has defeated a powerful record of quarterbacks within the playoffs: Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson, Ben Roethlisberger, Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa.

And naturally, Josh Allen, who was eradicated for the third time by Mahomes and the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs final week.

One star AFC quarterback whom Mahomes has by no means run into within the postseason is Lamar Jackson. The Baltimore Ravens star may match Mahomes this season along with his second MVP award — however is just now making his first look within the AFC championship recreation.

“He’s going to be the MVP for a motive,” Mahomes mentioned. “He leads his staff. He scores, he runs, he throws, he does no matter it takes to win, and that’s what the greats do. It’s a problem for our protection, but additionally an excellent problem for our offense to maintain up.”

Mahomes and the Chiefs face that tough job Sunday at Baltimore within the AFC title recreation. It’s their sixth consecutive yr reaching this stage of the playoffs, however the first time in that span they’ll must play it on the street.

The Chiefs are the defending Tremendous Bowl champions. The Ravens have the NFL’s finest file this season. It’s an enchanting matchup made much more so by the presence of Mahomes and Jackson.

Even when Jackson could be pleased to keep away from such a tricky opponent.

“I don’t like competing towards him in any respect,” Jackson mentioned with amusing. “He’s undoubtedly a Corridor of Famer. However I imagine it’s simply two greats — up-and-coming greats — simply going toe to toe, like a heavyweight struggle.”

That is the primary playoff matchup between former MVP quarterbacks who’re each below 30.

That’s to not say Mahomes hasn’t been pushed within the quarterback-deep AFC. Allen has come near knocking him off, and Burrow really beat Mahomes within the AFC championship recreation two years in the past earlier than Mahomes received a rematch final season.

Jackson’s most up-to-date matchup with Mahomes was a 36-35 win by the Ravens in September 2021. Mahomes received their conferences in every of the earlier three seasons.

“Hear, this league is lots concerning the quarterbacks, proper? We’re lucky on this recreation we have now two of one of the best ones within the league,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo mentioned. “Our purpose and what we speak about on a regular basis is, ‘Let’s simply get the ball again to our quarterback.’ That’s our job. And the one means to try this is be certain that their quarterback doesn’t do the issues that he’s able to doing.”

Baltimore (14-4) reached this spherical with a 34-10 win over Houston. Kansas Metropolis (12-6) beat Allen and Buffalo 27-24 final weekend — with Taylor Swift in attendance watching her boyfriend, Chiefs tight finish Travis Kelce.

That romance could possibly be headed to the Tremendous Bowl subsequent month — however the Ravens will do their finest to finish Kansas Metropolis’s run.

That is the primary time Baltimore is internet hosting the AFC title recreation because the Colts beat the Oakland Raiders in January 1971. The present Baltimore franchise has made it to this recreation 4 occasions beforehand, all on the street, and received twice on the best way to Tremendous Bowl titles.

That is Baltimore’s fourth time reaching the sport below coach John Harbaugh, however the Ravens haven’t been this far since their Tremendous Bowl run 11 years in the past. Kansas Metropolis, in fact, has made the AFC title recreation an annual a part of its schedule recently.

“They’ve been on this scenario many occasions. They’ve performed on this recreation. I believe they’re a really skilled staff,” Harbaugh mentioned. “They’re a hardened staff. They’ve been by way of lots. That have at all times is useful.”

Chiefs working again Isiah Pacheco, affectionately often called “Pops” by teammates, has been a giant motive why they’ve received their first two playoff video games.

The second-year standout has run for 186 yards and two scores in wins over Miami and Buffalo, and his success between the tackles has opened up a downfield passing recreation that has been bottled up all season.

“I believe leaning into him, leaning into our offensive line and what they do finest is extraordinarily necessary to our staff,” Mahomes mentioned. “It’s not at all times going to be high-flying, however we’re going to do no matter we will to win the soccer recreation on the finish of the day. And if that’s working the ball, throwing the ball, no matter that’s.”

Of the Ravens’ 13 regular-season victories this season, a file 10 had been over groups that completed above .500.

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“I believe that we simply do what we’re signed as much as do, and that’s play for one another, on the finish of the day. Give every thing that we’ve acquired and attempt to ship a message, play in and play out,” linebacker Roquan Smith mentioned. “No larger stage to try this than the sport developing this week.”

Ravens kicker Justin Tucker makes a field goal against the Texans on Jan. 20, 2024, in Baltimore.

Particular groups is often an element within the postseason — have a look at the misses by Buffalo and Inexperienced Bay final week. And the Ravens and Chiefs have two of the sport’s finest kickers.

Justin Tucker goes to his seventh Professional Bowl in 12 seasons for Baltimore, whereas Harrison Butker was 33 of 35 on field-goal makes an attempt for Kansas Metropolis this season and is ideal up to now within the playoffs.

“He’s been there for such a protracted profession, no accidents, and he’s made it look easy,” Butker mentioned of Tucker, whom he recollects watching on Youtube way back to highschool. “He’s form of modified the kicking recreation, and pushed us youthful guys to say, ‘It’s attainable to make 65-yard subject targets and these game-winning kicks.’ He’s simply an artist.”

Ravens tight finish Mark Andrews (ankle) hasn’t performed since November, however he has been working towards this week. Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (calf) additionally returned to observe after lacking final weekend’s win over Houston.

Pacheco (ankle/toe) and guard Joe Thuney (pectoral) missed observe time for Kansas Metropolis this week.

AP’s Dave Skretta contributed.