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50 Words or Less: Are the Ravens a Team of Destiny?

TE Mark Andrews
TE Mark Andrews

It's a dream matchup in Sunday's AFC Championship between the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.

The first AFC title game in 53 years in Baltimore is going to be electric.

Here are my thoughts, all in 50 words or less:

The phrase around Baltimore before their 2012 AFC Championship game in New England was that the Ravens were a "team of destiny." They were forged by the prior years' losses. They were hot. It was their time. I get a lot of the same feelings about the 2023 Ravens.

The Ravens have the advantage on paper in this game. They're playing better on both sides of the ball. They're healthier. They're at home. If nothing wacky happens in this game (special teams touchdown, multiple turnovers, bad penalties, etc.), the Chiefs are going to have a very tough time winning.

But there's Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is an ultra-competitor, and even though the Chiefs offense has been a little "off" this year, Mahomes can always pull a rabbit out of a hat. He's the reason why the Chiefs are in their sixth straight AFC title game. Never can count him out.

Lamar Jackson said he feels the same way he did last week entering the Texans game, but he seems less antsy. The playoff butterflies are done, the "rust" gone. He seems to be in an excellent mental space heading into the biggest game of his career – loose and locked in.

I don't know how many snaps Mark Andrews will play in his first game back, but I could see the Ravens' 1-2 tight end punch with Isaiah Likely landing some blows against Kansas City. They are stronger on the outside at cornerback than up the middle.

The best formula (it's still not a good one) to disrupt Jackson and the Ravens offense seems to be blitzing. The Texans blitzed the snot out of it last week and it kind of worked for a half. Andrews' return gives Jackson his safety blanket back. It's big vs. blitz.

Add Andrews' return to the reasons why this feels eerily reminiscent of 2012. Ray Lewis' return to the field for the playoffs galvanized that team. Andrews could put the Ravens over the top. One executive told The Athletic, "it might be over for the rest of the league."

This story from The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer is interesting about how Jackson is running slower than ever this season. Jackson is obviously a more dynamic runner than Mahomes, but Mahomes has made countless huge plays with his legs in clutch moments. I expect Jackson to do the same.

The loss of All-Pro guard Joe Thuney (pectoral) is huge. The Chiefs still have top-notch center Creed Humphrey, another strong guard in Trey Smith, and good tackles. But there's no doubt that Justin Madubuike just became a lot harder for Kansas City to block. Mahomes may be on the run.

Don't overlook the absence of starting Chiefs nose tackle Derrick Nnadi either. The Chiefs have the No. 2 defense in the league, right behind the Ravens, but their run D ranked No. 18. Baltimore has a chance to exploit one of their biggest weaknesses even more.

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