Peter Schrager Says It's 'Head-Scratching' That Ravens Are Favored Over Chiefs
"Good Morning Football's" Peter Schrager doesn't think the Ravens should be favored over the Kansas City Chiefs in Sunday's AFC Championship Game at M&T Bank Stadium.
Baltimore is a 3.5-point favorite after winning a league-high 13 games, but Schrager said the defending Super Bowl champions shouldn't be the underdogs against anyone in a game of this magnitude.
"To me, this is, I'm not gonna say blasphemous, it's just head-scratching," Schrager said. "I don't care if the Ravens went undefeated like the Patriots did [in 2007], this is still the Kansas City Chiefs. The Kansas City Chiefs in every big game have shown up, in every big game have taken care of business.
"I'll take the wherewithal, and the know-how, and the [Patrick] Mahomes, and the [Travis] Kelce, and the [Andy] Reid, and in this case, the [Isiah] Pacheco, and the [Marquez Valdes-Scantling], and the [Harrison] Butker, and whoever else you want to name."
The Chiefs, who defeated the Bills in Buffalo, 27-24, in the divisional round to advance to their sixth consecutive AFC Championship Game, were 2.5-point underdogs in that contest. It was Mahomes' first road playoff game of his career.
"How could the Chiefs be underdogs in any game if you watched Sunday night what they do and how they pull it together?" Schrager said. "Of course they're losing late in the third quarter. Of course they make all the right plays. And of course it's the Bills stubbing their toe, doing fake punts, and missing kicks, and missing receivers deep. The Chiefs don't do that."
Despite the Chiefs' championship pedigree with Mahomes (two Super Bowl wins, three AFC titles), the Ravens have been the more impressive team this season.
Baltimore won two more games than Kansas City during the regular season, had a significantly better point differential (a league-best plus-203 to Kansas City's plus-77), and was historically good against teams with winning records.
Schrager did acknowledge that the Chiefs haven't been perfect in the playoffs in the Mahomes era. They lost to the New England Patriots, 37-31, in overtime in the AFC Championship after the 2018 season, and were knocked off by the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24, in overtime in the AFC Championship after the 2021 season.
Still, Schrager said the Chiefs are the team to beat.
"I can't say that the Ravens, no matter how good they are, are the bullies and the favorites in this one," Schrager said.
That should sit just fine with the Ravens, who have adopted an underdog mentality despite being favored in most of their games this season.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s First Mock Draft Has Ravens Taking Cornerback in First Round
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s first mock draft is out. The draft expert has the Ravens selecting Missouri cornerback Ennis Rakestraw Jr. in the first round with the 31st-overall pick.
"The Ravens' defense has been spectacular this season, but defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney, linebacker Patrick Queen and safety Geno Stone are all set to be free agents this offseason," Kiper wrote. "While they're likely to bring back a couple of these players and might have young replacements on their roster for others, I see a banged-up cornerback group that could use more depth.
"Rakestraw would make six cornerbacks off the board in Round 1, which would be the most since the 2020 draft. He has the versatility to play out wide or in the slot. He had just one interception in four college seasons, but he did have 24 career pass breakups, so he knows how to get his hands on throws. I like Rakestraw's fit in Baltimore."
Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema did a five-round mock draft for the Ravens. He mocked Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell to Baltimore in the first round at No. 32.
"The Ravens could lose Odell Beckham Jr. to free agency this spring. Even if they don't, this pick would still make sense," Sikkema wrote. "Baltimore gets most of its size in the receiving game from the tight end room. The team has done well with Mark Andrews and Isaiah Likely, but I love the idea of adding the 6-foot-4 Mitchell as the 'X' receiver. Mitchell's finesse and movement skills bode well for red-zone efficiency, and he is a good sideline receiver."
Like Kiper, Sikkema sees the Ravens take a cornerback early in the draft. He has Baltimore selecting Wake Forest's Caelen Carson in the second round.
"Baltimore's cornerback room needs some youth, and Carson is the player I gravitate toward for them in the second round," Sikkema wrote. "He's a bit limited in long speed, but he can trigger downhill fast, especially when he anticipates. He is also one of the more fearless run-defending cornerbacks the class has to offer. That kind of attitude in the physical parts of the position will be coveted."
Clowney Coming Off Strong Game Against the Run
The Ravens defense limited the Houston Texans to just 38 yards rushing on 14 carries (2.7 average) in Baltimore's 34-10 win in Saturday's divisional round game, and Clowney was one of the reasons why.
"Much has been made of Jadeveon Clowney since he joined the team in August, with the former No. 1 overall pick earning a career-high 80.8 PFF pass-rushing grade after tallying 10 sacks, 10 hits and 53 hurries," PFF’s Gordon McGuinness wrote. "Those 73 total pressures from 506 pass-rushing snaps — including the playoffs — also form a career-best mark.
"It was Clowney's work against the run on a limited snap count that stood out from the win over the Texans. He finished the game with a pair of tackles resulting in a defensive stop and earned a positive grade on four of his seven snaps against the run."
Clowney and the Ravens defense will face a stiff challenge Sunday in Pacheco. The hard-running Chiefs running back rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries (6.5 average) against the Bill on Sunday and has averaged 90.4 rushing yards over his past five games.
- The Ravens are projected to receive one compensatory pick in the 2024 draft, a fourth-rounder for the departure of guard Ben Powers, according to Over The Cap.