NFL Free Picks: Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs 1/9/11

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There might not have been a more improbable team in the playoffs this year than the Kansas City Chiefs. They were one of the longest shots on the board to win their division regardless of what division you were talking about in football, but they are laughing last. KC beat the NFL odds all year long, and now it has to overcome some awfully long Super Bowl odds this week to take care of the Baltimore Ravens, who have become known as killers to home teams in the AFC playoffs.

Matchup: Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs
Date: Sunday, January 9th, 1:00 ET
Location: Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO
Game Line: Baltimore -3
Over/Under 40.5

Ravens Notes: Over the course of the last two seasons, the Ravens have really done well in the playoffs, taking care of a number of teams en route to the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs and the AFC Championship Game in back to back years. This is the third year in a row that they are going to have to win three road games if they want to play for the Lombardi Trophy. The argument could be made that this is the best team that the Ravens have put together in a number of seasons, and that might even include the Super Bowl squad. QB Joe Flacco is one of the best up and coming signal callers in the league, and he proved it this year by throwing for 3,622 yards and 25 TDs against just 10 picks on the season. He has a great crop of receivers to work with as well, as WR Derrick Mason, WR Anquan Boldin, WR TJ Houshmanzadeh, and the always dependable TE Todd Heap were all great this year. RB Ray Rice was also used as a pass catching option quite a bit, 63 times to be exact. Rice had 556 yards through the air and 1,223 more on the ground, and though he only had six scores for the season, we know that he can go off for a tremendous game at the drop of a hat. Boldin, Mason, and Heap all also hit the 600 yard barrier this year. Boldin and Mason had nearly identical numbers, as the two combined for 125 receptions, 1,639 yards, and 14 trips to the end zone. Defensively, things really changed when S Ed Reed came back into the lineup. He has eight picks this year, which led the league, and he missed the first six weeks of the year on the PUP list. As always, LB Ray Lewis is one of the best in the biz as well, as he had a pair of picks, a pair of sacks, a pair of fumble recoveries, and a team high 102 tackles on the year. Needless to say, he and several of his teammates on this side of the ball will be playing in the Pro Bowl this year.

Chiefs Notes: Arrowhead Stadium has become a real house of horrors for the opposition this year, as the only team to come in here and pull out a victory was the Oakland Raiders. However, what we have to remember is that there was only one team that this team beat all season long that finished above .500, and the 'W' against the San Diego Chargers came way back in Week 1. In fact, there was only one other team that even finished this year above .500 on this entire slate, and the Chiefs lost to the Indianapolis Colts by 10. The good news for KC is that it has a great mold for winning games. Run the ball, and play great defense. The 'D' has some real stars on it this year, and the addition of S Eric Berry has clearly made a big difference. DE Tamba Hali is headed to the Pro Bowl as well after he picked up 14.5 sacks on the campaign. Offensively, the team averaged 164.2 yards per game on the ground this year, led by RB Jamaal Charles. The former University of Texas standout averaged a league high 6.4 yards per carry this year, and he had 1,467 yards and five TDs this year. Don't forget about RB Thomas Jones either, who had 896 yards and six TDs. When QB Matt Cassel has to put the ball in the air, he generally does well, though he is coming off of the worst game of his career against the Oakland Raiders. Cassel threw for 3,116 yards and 27 TDs against seven picks this year, one of the best TD/INT ratios in the league. WR Dwayne Bowe led the NFL in receiving TDs with 15, and he had 72 catches for 1,162 yards in 2010.

The Final Word: Kansas City has been a nice story this year, but this team is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. The Chiefs really haven't done anything but beat the teams that they were supposed to beat this year, and unfortunately for them, this isn't a team that they are supposed to beat. Going on the road isn't going to intimidate the Ravens, and unfortunately for the hosts, they are going to be the next team in line that had no business getting in their way. Quoth the Ravens: Never score. Don't be shocked if this one gets very, very ugly.

Free Pro Football Picks: Baltimore -3
Prediction: Baltimore 17 – Kansas City 6

Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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