xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Evaluating the Ravens' potential postseason foes

The Ravens clinched a third straight playoff spot last week, but with the AFC North title still up for grabs, they aren't looking past Sunday's game against the Bengals. That doesn't mean we can't.

Inspired by this Boston Herald article, I broke down the Ravens' five potential playoff opponents (teams and seeding are based on the standings through 16 weeks). Keep an eye on the "fear factor" for each team, which is my way of evaluating which AFC contenders should scare the 11-4 Ravens the most. Of course, there is reason for each opponent to be fearful, too.

Advertisement

New England Patriots, 13-2, AFC East champions
Reason for optimism: It was doom and gloom when the Ravens arrived in Foxborough for the wild-card round last year. But they roared out of the tunnel with a fury and absolutely manhandled the Patriots. With that dominant performance, the Ravens learned the Patriots aren't invincible.
Cause for concern: So the Patriots aren't invincible, but they are still very good. Tom Brady got his groove back against the Ravens in Week 6, and his unheralded crew of running backs and receivers create matchup issues all across the board. Brady is the league MVP and the Patriots are the best team in the NFL.
Matchup nightmare: QB Tom Brady
Last meeting: L, 23-20 (OT), Oct. 17, 2010
Fear factor: 7.5 out of 10

Pittsburgh Steelers, 11-4, AFC North champions (with a Week 17 win or Ravens loss)

Advertisement
Advertisement

Reason for optimism:

If the Ravens and Steelers engage in Round 3, they will do battle in Pittsburgh. The Ravens were able to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh thanks to Joe Flacco’s one shining moment in Week 4. Doing it again wouldn’t be easy, but hey, at least the Ravens already have that monkey off their back.

Cause for concern:

The Steelers, who have won both playoff meetings in the rivalry, have a rejuvenated Ben Roethlisberger, a pair of Pro Bowl-caliber pass rushers in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and Ravens nemesis Troy Polamalu, even if he isn’t 100 percent. And then there’s the Steelers’ overall track record of postseason success.

Matchup nightmare:

SS Troy Polamalu

Last meeting:

L, 13-10, Dec. 5, 2010

Fear factor:

7 out of 10

Kansas City Chiefs, 10-5, AFC West champions

Reason for optimism:

The Chiefs are one of this season’s biggest surprises, but they are young, inexperienced and could be all wide-eyed against Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the veteran Ravens.

Cause for concern:

With Jamal Charles leading the way and Thomas Jones running hard when Charles has needed a breather, the Chiefs have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense (they average 167.5 rushing yards per game). Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who has 14 receiving touchdowns, could wreak havoc, too.

Matchup nightmare:

RB Jamal Charles

Last meeting:

W, 38-24, Sept. 13, 2009

Fear factor:

3 out of 10

Indianapolis Colts, 9-6, AFC South champions (with a Week 17 win or Jaguars loss)

Reason for optimism:

The Colts, who haven’t yet clinched their playoff spot, are having a down year. They have suffered significant injuries on both sides of the ball, and, as a result, the play of Peyton Manning has tailed off. The Colts are vulnerable, and the Ravens might not get a better chance to exorcise their demons than this year.

Cause for concern:

It’s still Peyton Manning and the Colts.

Matchup nightmare:

QB Peyton Manning

Last meeting:

L, 20-3, Jan. 16, 2010 (playoffs)

Fear factor:

8 out of 10

New York Jets, 10-5, wild card

Reason for optimism:

Mark Sanchez is the Jets quarterback.

Cause for concern:

Rex Ryan’s defense has taken a step back this year, but Ryan is capable of scheming up a plan to exploit the Ravens’ inconsistent offensive line and confuse and/or pummel Flacco.

Matchup nightmare:

WR Santonio Holmes

Last meeting:

W, 10-9, Sept. 13, 2010

Fear factor:

5.5 out of 10

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement