The Ravens are embarking on another postseason odyssey, which starts in Kansas City and could include stops in Pittsburgh, New England -- and maybe even Dallas. First things first, though, they have to handle the upstart Chiefs. Here are five key story lines I'll be following:
1. Flipping the switch: Despite a wealth of talent at the skill positions, a battle tested offensive line and one of the best young QBs in football, the Ravens finished the regular season 16th in points (22.3) and 22nd in total yards (322.9). "I always say we haven't played our best football yet," running back Ray Rice said. OK, will we see it in Kansas City?
2. Bowe knows touchdowns: Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe led the NFL with 15 receiving touchdowns, which were more than half of QB Matt Cassel's 27 TD tosses. The Ravens will try to eliminate Bowe from the game plan and make the Chiefs one-dimensional, though that's far from easy. Bowe isn't the fastest guy, nor the most physical. The 6-foot-2 wideout simply has good hands and a knack for coming down with the football. "He just knows that when it's time to go up and get the ball, he's going to catch it," explained Ravens cornerback Chris Carr.
3. Charles in charge: Jamaal Charles, K.C's electric, lightning-quick tailback, finished second in the league with 1,467 yards on the ground. His gaudy 6.4 yards-per-carry average fell just short of Jim Brown's NFL record. Charles had 10 runs of 20 yards or longer, and his 80-yard run in Week 15 was the NFL's longest run of 2010. "He can go to the house from anywhere on the field," safety Ed Reed said. "We've got our work cut out for us." Especially with bruising back Thomas Jones (six TDs) waiting on the bench to spell Charles when he needs a breather.
4. He'll Tamba for you: It took him a few years to come into his own, but Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali has finally lived up to the promise that got him selected in the first round of the 2006 draft. The former defensive end from Penn State led the AFC with 14.5 sacks in 2010. "We're going to have to account for him up front and make sure we handle it well," quarterback Joe Flacco, the apple of John Clayton's eye, said. Ravens left tackle Michael Oher will have his hands full trying to keep Hali out of Flacco's comfort zone.
5. Baltimore's antique road show: The Ravens are 3-2 in road playoff games under coach John Harbaugh and 6-3 all-time. "Our track record says we'll play anybody anytime on the road," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Anytime you can pack up a great defense and take it on the road, you have a chance to win." Even at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Chiefs are 7-1 this season? We'll find out Sunday.