The AFC divisional round of the NFL playoffs is set to be especially divisional this year. After defeating the Colts last night, the Jets will visit Foxboro next week to take on the AFC East juggernaut Patriots. Elsewhere, the Ravens earned a trip to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers after demolishing the Chiefs this afternoon, 30-7.
For what it's worth, Kansas City didn't exactly bring its A-game. Sure, its front seven played well, limiting Ray Rice and Willis McGahee to 3.7 yards per carry and registering four sacks on Joe Flacco, but Matt Cassel and the offense gave the game away with three interceptions and two lost fumbles. It's tough to win when you lose the turnover battle so convincingly. In fact, it's kind of shocking that the score wasn't even more lopsided; Baltimore held the ball for almost 42 minutes, so the fact that the Chiefs defense was able to limit the Ravens to red zone field goals on three occasions was impressive considering how gassed they must have been.
Finally, to any Kansas City fans who may be reading: sorry, but hang in there. Your team is chalk-full of young, exciting talent, including the criminally underused Jamaal Charles, who just might be the best running back on the planet. If the front office can retain key guys like Charles, safety Eric Berry, and pass rusher Tamba Hali, I see many more division championships in your future. Great work getting it turned around in 2010, KC.
In any case, things are shaping up pretty nicely for the Steelers. Although contests between Pittsburgh and Baltimore tend to be low-scoring, tightly-contested affairs, the Steelers nearly emerged victorious with backup quarterback Dennis Dixon at the helm in Week 4 and won with Ben Roethlisberger in Week 13, helping to secure the division crown. What's more, Roethlisberger has owned the Ravens, going 6-2 against them over the last four seasons.
The Patriots-Jets matchup is intriguing, to say the least. New York is one of only two teams to (convincingly) best New England in the regular season, but they were blown out 45-3 when the teams met for the second time. So ... who knows what will happen this time around? Still, the fact that the Jets have and could beat the Patriots is great news for Pittsburgh, who would host the conference championship in two weeks if they topple the Ravens and the Jets pull off the upset.