BALTIMORE — The AFC Championship game features one team that could be remembered as one of the most dominant Super Bowl winners ever if it finishes off the job.
And the Chiefs.
Overshadowed by the Chiefs-centric talk of NFL dynasties, the greatness of the Andy Reid-Patrick Mahomes pairing, Travis Kelce’s famous girlfriend Taylor Swift and shirtless party animal brother Jason Kelce is the fact that the Ravens quietly have pummeled the best competition all season and earned the right to be favored at 3 p.m. Sunday in Baltimore.
“He’s an elite quarterback,” Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith said of Mahomes. “But, at the end of the day, we’re an elite defense.”
The Ravens became the first team in NFL history to lead the league in sacks (60) and takeaways (31) while allowing the fewest points per game (16.5).
But these aren’t your older brother’s defense-carried, offense-challenged Ravens.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson is the favorite to win his second NFL MVP and is just one piece of the NFL’s best rushing attack.
Add together dominance on both sides of the ball, and what do you get?
The Ravens have an unprecedented nine blowout wins (including the playoffs) by 14 or more points against teams that finished with winning records and a 6-0 record against opponents who were at least three games above .500 at kickoff.
The Ravens beat the two NFC Championship game participants by margins of 32 (Lions) and 14 (49ers).
“It’s a tall task,” Mahomes said. “You have to play your best football, and if you make any mistakes, it seems like the game’s going to go the other way.”
Here’s another way to frame the Ravens’ dominance: In the 17 games started by Jackson — eliminating the meaningless regular-season finale — the Ravens trailed just 9.7 percent of the time (94 minutes and 39 seconds out of a possible 971 minutes and 9 seconds).
But the Ravens are trying to turn the tables and put pressure on the Chiefs, who are playing in a sixth straight AFC Championship, with a chance to reach a fourth Super Bowl during that era and have Reid-Mahomes become the fifth head coach-quarterback tandem to win three Super Bowls together.
“I feel like the Chiefs, over the years, are the [NFL] version of Alabama,” said Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey, an Alabama alum. “It’s like every year they might be like, ‘Oh they’re not looking that good. They’re not this.’ They’re still ‘that team.’ They’re still the team to beat.”
It’s not just the traditional statistics that disagree with Humphrey.
One of the NFL’s most-respected analytics measures shows that no team since 1981 has been as hot as these Ravens after the divisional round playoffs.
The Ravens’ weighted Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) — calculating a team’s success on each play relative to the league average — with more consideration given to recent games is 55.2 percent, according to FTN Fantasy.
The next three highest scores belong to the 1985 Bears, 1996 Packers and 1991 Washington — all Super Bowl winners.
And yet all of it is allowing the Chiefs a rare chance to relish their road-underdog status.
“Everyone is against you,” Mahomes said. “You’ve got to go out there and come together as a team and find a way to win. It’s just a whole new opportunity to see what you’re really about.”