On Sunday (1/28/24), the Baltimore Ravens host the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game. In this article, find the latest betting odds for the game and a full matchup preview. In addition, find our Chiefs vs. Ravens prediction and best bet, which is the Ravens 1H -2.5.
Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Baltimore Ravens Prediction
After vanquishing the Bills in his first road postseason start last week, Patrick Mahomes is back on the road to face the best defense in the NFL. Meanwhile, Kansas City brings the best defense of the Mahomes era to Baltimore to take on the likely MVP-winning quarterback, Lamar Jackson. In this battle of heavyweights, where do the advantages lie?
When the Chiefs Have the Ball
We had an overwhelming sample size entering last week of the Chiefs’ offensive difficulties this year, but when it mattered most, Kansas City came through with its best offensive performance of the season by DVOA. Patrick Mahomes finished with 215 passing yards and 2 touchdowns in a mostly flawless outing, but I’m not positive it’s replicable here.
The Chiefs were able to take advantage of a Bills defense dealing with multiple injuries that only piled on as that game progressed. The Ravens, on the other hand, are fully healthy, with Marlon Humphrey expected to return for this game.
Importantly, the Chiefs also lost guard Joe Thuney last week, who led all guards in PFF pass-blocking grade and ESPN’s pass block win rate.
Kansas City’s strategy was brilliant last week as they were able to expose a Bills defense that wanted to live in nickel packages with their highest rate of 12 and 13 personnel (multiple tight ends) of the season. The Bills failed to adjust and stuck with their undersized group, and it was their undoing in the game. It’s difficult to expect Mike Macdonald to make the same mistake.
Macdonald, the Ravens defensive coordinator, has been absolutely brilliant this season, leading a historic defense. Baltimore was the first defense in NFL history to lead the league in points allowed, sacks, and turnovers in the regular season. The defense is littered with playmakers including defensive lineman Justin Madubuike, linebacker Roquan Smith, and safety Kyle Hamilton.
When the Ravens Have the Ball
Lamar Jackson is on his way to winning his second MVP award this season, and his performance last week further solidified his status as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. However, the Ravens have their biggest advantage on the ground in this game, where Todd Monken’s run scheme should find plenty of success.
Baltimore ranks first in rushing DVOA this season, and they’re well positioned to take advantage of a Chiefs run defense that ranks bottom five per most advanced metrics. Baltimore particularly has a huge advantage on power runs up the middle with Gus Edwards, and of course, they’ll have a huge edge with Lamar Jackson’s scrambling.
I’m fascinated to see how Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo handles this matchup. He’s an aggressive play caller, and Kansas City led the NFL in adjusted sack rate on the 7th-highest blitz rate. Jackson has been markedly less efficient against the blitz this season, and the Chiefs’ defense is at its best when blitzing. Check out the metrics below, courtesy of FTN:
- Lamar Jackson without a blitz – 7.2 net yards per play, 38% DVOA
- Lamar Jackson with a blitz – 5.6 net yards per play, 6% DVOA
- Chiefs defense without a blitz – 5.4 net yards per play, -13% DVOA
- Chiefs defense with a blitz – 4.6 net yards per play, -21% DVOA
Last week, the Texans sent the blitz at a 75% rate per Next Gen Stats, well out of character for a team that entered the game ranked just 28th in blitz rate. After a slow start in the first half, Jackson completed 13 of 18 passes against the blitz for 120 yards and two touchdowns. If he can replicate that performance, it will be a long day for the Chiefs’ secondary.
Lamar Jackson faced a career-high 75.0% blitz rate, completing 13 of 18 passes against the blitz for 120 yards & 2 TD.
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 21, 2024
The Ravens have the highest weighted DVOA in NFL history for a team entering the conference championships. Ten of the top 14 teams previously ended up winning the Super Bowl, and only two of those teams lost in the conference championship. The Ravens have 11 wins over teams with a winning record this season. Nine of those 11 wins are by 14+ points, the most in NFL history.
The Bills closed as 2.5-point favorites over the Chiefs last week, and I can’t get to a place where I see the Ravens as just a point or half-point better than a Buffalo team that was dealing with significant injuries on defense. I believe this spread should be Ravens -4.5 and we’re getting a better price simply because of the results of last week.
I grabbed the Ravens at -3 when the lines first opened, and it has since moved to -3.5. While I’d still play Baltimore at -3.5, I prefer their first half spread at the current numbers. The Ravens are 14-4 ATS (77%) in the first half this season and the Harbaugh-Jackson duo is 51-29-2 ATS (63.8%) in the first half, the best mark for any QB-coach combo since 2005.
Kansas City will likely find ways to stick around in this game through their elite coaching and quarterbacking, but the odds are stacked against Patrick Mahomes this week. The Ravens started slow last week against the Texans before hitting them like a freight train in the second half. Baltimore will come out of the gates much faster this week, and I’m betting on them making a statement in the first half on their way to an AFC Championship.
Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Baltimore Ravens Prediction: Ravens 1H -2.5
Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Baltimore Ravens Best Odds
After this spread opened at Ravens -3 on Sunday, the market quickly saw steam back Baltimore and the spread moved to -3.5. The number 3 is the most key in football, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some buyback on the Chiefs at the current number, especially since Patrick Mahomes is now an unimpeachable 9-1-1 ATS (90%) as an underdog.
The over/under for this game sits at 44.5 points, just below a very key number of 45. With the current numbers in this game, the implied final score is around 24-20 in favor of the home Ravens.
Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Baltimore Ravens Key Injuries
The Chiefs could be without former All Pro guard Joe Thuney this week, and his absence would be massive as he’s the highest-graded guard in pass-blocking per PFF. The Ravens, meanwhile, could get both tight end Mark Andrews and cornerback Marlon Humphrey back in the lineup this week, which would be huge for their overall fortitude against the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs Vs. Baltimore Ravens Key Matchups
In this year’s AFC Championship game, there are tons of fascinating matchups that will go a long way toward determining who moves onto the Super Bowl. Let’s break down some of the key matchups in this game between the Chiefs and Ravens.
Travis Kelce Vs. Kyle Hamilton
After a frustrating season for Travis Kelce, he came through in a huge way to help the Chiefs advance last week as he finished with five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Kelce needs six receptions in the AFC Championship to tie Jerry Rice’s record for the most postseason catches of all time (151), and with five receptions, he can tie Julian Edelman’s playoff record with 13 straight games of 5+ catches in the postseason.
Facing Kelce will be a very tough matchup against Kyle Hamilton, a player seemingly specifically built to stop elite pass-catching tight ends like Kelce. This season, Kelce has played 49% of his snaps from the slot, and Hamilton has allowed just 0.45 yards per slot coverage snap, the lowest rate in the NFL per PFF.
Outside of rookie Rashee Rice, the Chiefs’ wide receiver room is underwhelming, and Ravens’ defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald will be well aware of that fact. I wouldn’t expect to see Kelce benefitting from coverage busts like he does in the video below. While Mahomes has the ability to elevate any receiver, Kelce’s ability to overcome this difficult matchup will be critical to the team’s offensive success.
The Chiefs schemed the Bills up here. Buffalo had some communication issues, and KC used Mecole Hardman's motion to make life difficult.
Ultimately, it's a single-high look, a blown coverage and a walk-in touchdown for Travis Kelce. pic.twitter.com/UtJkbuuKBD
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) January 23, 2024
Gus Edwards Vs. Chiefs’ Run Defense
I’m expecting Baltimore to find a ton of success running the ball on a defense that spent over 37 minutes on the field last week. The Bills totaled 173 rushing yards on 37 carries between Josh Allen, James Cook, and Ty Johnson, and they wore down the second level of the Chiefs’ defense. Kansas City ranked bottom five in run defense DVOA, EPA, and success rate this season, and they had the worst run stop win rate per ESPN.
The Chiefs particularly struggled against runs up the middle, which is an area where Baltimore thrives. According to FTN, the Ravens ranked sixth in adjusted line yards on middle runs and the Chiefs ranked 22nd on defense. The Ravens also ranked third in short-yardage run conversion rate while the Chiefs were dead last on defense.
The second level of the Chiefs’ run defense has actually been solid as they were middle of the pack in PFF’s tackling grades, and that only improved once linebacker Nick Bolton got healthy. However, Kansas City has been gashed at the line of scrimmage, and if Edwards is consistently churning out 4-5 yards on early downs, it will be a huge problem. He’ll help keep the chains moving and keep the ball away from Patrick Mahomes.
Gus Edwards over 39.5 rushing yards (-115 BetMGM)
Another prop where I believe CLV is going to be very important. Gus is over this number in 13 of 18 games this season per @propsdotcash, averaging 47.2 yards per game.
The Ravens are 3.5-point favorites in this game, and I like… pic.twitter.com/Ie12b7SjEi
— Jacob Wayne (@wayne_sports_) January 22, 2024
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