It’s no secret that the Kansas City Chiefs want to run the football and they were better than any team in the league when it came to doing just that this season. When they take the field Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs, they will have to do it against one of the best rushing defenses in the NFL.
The Chiefs led the league with 164.2 rushing yards per game, while the Ravens rushing defense was fifth best by allowing just 93.9 yards.
That’s not to say the Chiefs cannot be stopped or the Ravens cannot be had.
In their six losses, Kansas City’s rushing attack averaged just under 110 yards and if you take out their shootout with the Houston Texans, that number dips down to 86.2.
Meanwhile, Baltimore has given up 100 yards on the ground eight times this season, though only one of those games turned out to be a loss (week 6 vs. New England). Oddly enough, in their four losses the Ravens defense only allowed 83.8 yards. The Browns burned Baltimore early for a season-high 173 yards in Peyton Hillis’ breakout game.
Both teams played to their strength as the season winded down. Baltimore yielded just 76.8 yards per game over the final five weeks of the season while Kansas City averaged 142 over that same stretch.
The one secret weapon that the Chiefs have isn’t a secret at all: Jamaal Charles. He was forced to leave Sunday’s loss to the Raiders twice due to stingers, but is the most rested feature back in the playoffs. Kansas City head coach Todd Haley has limited the carries of Charles throughout the season, presumably, so he could use him without limits in the second season.
Only three times all season did Matt Cassel hand off to Charles more than 20 times in a game and over the last month he never eclipsed 14 carries. To put that in perspective, Baltimore’s lead back Ray Rice carried the ball 95 times the final month of the season. Charles received 91 carries over the last six games.
No matter how you slice it, we are in for one hell of a showdown Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium.