“I’m excited,” Andrews said. “I love to play football. I love the Ravens. I love the city. I’m going to give them everything I’ve got.”
When Andrews injured his left ankle during a 34-29 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 16, the initial fear was that he would miss the rest of the season. But Andrews spent six hours a day rehabbing a cracked fibula and ligament damage at the Ravens’ Under Armour Performance Center and spent his nights in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to speed up his recovery.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said it took “an amazing amount of toughness” for Andrews to put himself in position to play 73 days after this significant injury.
This is the first playoff matchup between former MVP quarterbacks who are both under 30.
That’s not to say Mahomes hasn’t been pushed in the quarterback-deep AFC. Allen has come close to knocking him off, and Burrow actually beat Mahomes in the AFC championship game two years ago before Mahomes won a rematch last season.
Jackson’s most recent matchup with Mahomes was a 36-35 win by the Ravens in September 2021. Mahomes won their meetings in each of the previous three seasons.
“Listen, this league is a lot about the quarterbacks, right? We’re fortunate in this game we have two of the best ones in the league,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. “Our goal and what we talk about all the time is, ‘Let’s just get the ball back to our quarterback.’ That’s our job. And the only way to do that is make sure their quarterback doesn’t do the things that he’s capable of doing.”
John Harbaugh becomes first former Andy Reid assistant to defeat Big Red in playoffs
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is a future Hall of Famer. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion, and his 258 wins as a head coach are the fourth-most in NFL history. Another strong point on his resume is he has never lost to a former assistant of his in a playoff game. He is a perfect 5-0 against former assistants in the postseason.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh served as Reid’s special teams coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles for eight seasons from 1999-2006 and another in 2007 as his defensive backs coach. Then the Ravens swooped in and hired him to be their head coach starting in the 2008 season.
Early Super Bowl predictions
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. ET, Feb. 11
Expert picks: Ravens 6, Chiefs 1, 49ers 1
It’s hard to shake the underdog label, even as the Lions are a sentimental favorite among those within the league. But the Lions have played that role well.
This has been the Ravens’ season, and the panel expects that to continue. They were the league’s only 13-game winner, boast the top-ranked defense and have an MVP favorite at quarterback who has taken his game to the highest level of his career. Not only that, but both of John Harbaugh’s coordinators are up for head-coaching jobs of their own, with Mike Macdonald on some short lists and Todd Monken drawing interview requests.
Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce connected in last week’s Divisional Round victory for their 16th postseason touchdown, the most playoff scores of all time by a quarterback-receiver duo. I hope they enjoyed that success because Sunday will have a different feeling. The Ravens’ defense has locked up top-tier opponents all season long, and it does the same against the mighty Chiefs, holding Kelce to fewer than three receptions — which would be his lowest catch total in a game this season — and leading the Ravens to another double-digit win.
JAWAAN TAYLOR, OT, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
After Jawaan Taylor’s rookie deal as a second-round pick with the Jacksonville Jaguars expired, he signed a $20 million per year deal (with $60 million guaranteed) with the Chiefs, a huge commitment from Kansas City on a right tackle who had never made a Pro Bowl.
It’s been a rough first year in Kansas City for Taylor, who has committed 20 penalties and allowed five sacks. His potential dead-money hit ensures he’ll be with the Chiefs next season, and his contract likely will be restructured to lower his $24.75 million cap number for 2024.
Taylor will have to play at a consistently higher level and be more mistake-free to stay in 2025 and beyond. He’s only 26, so the Chiefs will be patient for the short term and try to coach up a durable player who has never missed a start in his five-year career.
Chiefs Grade: D+
Jason Kelce clearly had a good time at last week’s divisional round matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills, but there was one thing he didn’t get to do.
According to his wife, Kylie, Kelce had plans of breaking a table — a staple at Bills’ tailgates.
“He wanted to get the full Bills’ experience,” Kylie said on Good Morning America. “I’m not sure you know as a Bills’ fan, they are notorious or famous for their tailgating skills, I will say. He desperately wanted to go through a table. It was on his check list for the day. Top priority of the day: go through a table.”
Around the NFL
Keenan McCardell’s playbook will probably have 50 or 60 plays – a lot of red-zone – although he promises they will be based on concepts players around the league have run, because practice time is short and players will rely heavily on wristbands to understand the calls.
McCardell is the offensive coordinator for the NFC team in the 2024 Pro Bowl Games, and while he’ll be calling plays for a flag football game in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 4 that features a collection of all-stars who are mostly on vacation, for McCardell, this is on-the-job training. He is the wide receivers coach for the Minnesota Vikings and works with Justin Jefferson every day. His dream, though, is to be an NFL head coach. The Pro Bowl Games will mark the first time he has ever called plays, and McCardell views this as a developmental opportunity for his career aspirations.
In case you missed it on Arrowhead Pride
Kansas City gave up 182 rushing yards (and two touchdowns) on the ground during their Divisional Round victory over the Buffalo Bills. Bolton recognizes Sunday’s game will be a similar challenge.
“They run the ball, man,” he said of the Ravens. “[They] average 160 per game. So it starts with that.”
But Bolton fully expects his unit to get back on track against the Ravens.
“We’ve got 11 guys out there [trying] to do their jobs,” he told reporters on Thursday. “I think the D-line is going to go out there and have a great game. Last week was kind of an anomaly for them; they’ve been out there balling for us for 18 [or] 19 weeks. So we need to get back to where we [were]. I’ve got to tackle a little bit better — but it all starts up front.”
Last Sunday, Kansas City had to stop Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen on the ground. This Sunday, they’ll be challenged by the dynamic athleticism of Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. Bolton acknowledged there are many similarities between them.
“Those guys are both electric with the ball out in space,” he noted. “They’re able to look down the field and still make passes while escaping. Both guys like to go out to their right — rightfully so, [because] they’re right-handed quarterbacks. We’ve got to limit that as much as we can — and place the key coverage in the back end when [Jackson] scrambles.”