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Each Tuesday morning, Whatifsports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your new found NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2010 NFL season.
NFL Wild Card Game of the Week: Ravens at Chiefs
The Ravens entered the 2010 campaign as one of the AFC preseason favorites, and with good reason. In the first two years of the John Harbaugh regime, the Ravens compiled 20 wins, reaching the playoffs in both seasons. Quarterback Joe Flacco made enormous strides in his second year in the league thanks to an improved focus on accuracy, raising his completion percentage (60% in '08 to 63.1% in '09) and QB rating (80.3 to 88.9). To assist in Flacco's continued growth, GM Ozzie Newsome landed Anquan Boldin from Arizona and picked up T.J. Houshmandzadeh after the wideout was released from Seattle. The Ravens also boasted one of the best backfields in the league with 2009 breakout star Ray Rice and two-time Pro Bowler Le'Ron McClain. With the continued dominance of Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense, it seemed as if the Ravens would steamroll through the conference.
The prospects of the Kansas City Chiefs? Not so lofty. Todd Haley finished his first season as head coach in 2009 with a 4-12 record, giving the red-and-gold faithful just 10 wins in the past three seasons. Newly acquired signal caller Matt Cassel was pedestrian at best, throwing just 16 touchdowns compared to 16 interceptions. This putrid performance correlated to a disappointing effort from wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, whose stats were nearly cut in half from a solid showing in 2008. Running back Jamaal Charles impressed after the release of Larry Johnson, and the addition of coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel in the offseason gave Kansas City guarded optimism going into 2010, but a postseason appearance seemed like an unattainable aspiration.
Yet as the first week of 2011 is upon us, it's the Ravens traveling to Arrowhead in the opening round of the playoffs, a proposition that seemed preposterous just four months ago. With a 10-6 record KC clinched the AFC West despite rocking a 2-4 divisional mark. The catalyst for this convalescence lies in the Kansas City rushing attack, which led the NFL with 164.2 yards per game. Thomas Jones was brought in from the Jets after totaling 1,400 yards in 2009, but the energy behind this offensive explosion has been the play of Charles. Despite receiving less carries than Jones, the former Texas Longhorn averaged an astonishing 6.4 yards a carry, correlating to 1,467 rushing yards on the season. Charles was also instrumental in the passing game, hauling in 45 receptions for 468 yards.
At first glance, the passing numbers for the Chiefs pale in comparison to the ground game. But don't let the meager 185.5 passing yards per game (30th in the NFL) fool you. Cassel and the aerial attack have been extremely efficient in 2010, as the Kanas City QB has 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions for a 93.0 QB rating. Aiding in this endeavor has been the rejuvenation of Bowe, who submitted a career year with 72 receptions for 1,162 yards and 15 scores. Rookie TE Tony Moeaki has been vital in the turnaround, garnering 47 catches for 556 yards in his role as Cassel's security blanket.
The defense has been just as imposing, limiting opponents to 20.4 points per contest. Linebacker Tamba Hali has been an annoyance to adversaries, finishing second in the league with 14.5 sacks. And although he's been caught out of position more than once, rookie safety Eric Berry led the team with four interceptions.
But no defense in the NFL is as disruptive as Baltimore. The Ravens yielded just 16.9 points on the scoreboard per game, third lowest in the league. Baltimore's strength resides in the run resistance, smothering rushing attacks to 93.9 yards per game. And while not as assertive in the passing game, the Ravens' secondary is not one to be trifled with. Ed Reed, who missed the first six weeks of the season due to injury, still led the league in takeaways with eight interceptions.
The offense, on the other hand, has somewhat been stuck in stall. Flacco cut down on his turnovers and tossed for a career high in touchdowns, but the unit seemed disjointed and lethargic at times. With 1,220 yards rushing and another 556 receiving, the numbers certainly don't indicate a regression for the running back Rice. However, Rice struggled to find the promised land, scoring just six touchdowns on the year. Granted, this might be nitpicking a team that went 12-4 on the season, but concerns do surround the state of the offense unit.
So who wins this AFC Wild Card battle? According to the WhatIfSports NFL simulation engine, the Chiefs come out on top 60.6% of the time by an average score of 21-18. For the rest of this week's projections, check below:
NFL Week 18
|Green Bay Packers||35.4||17||Boxscore|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||64.6||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Kansas City Chiefs||60.6||21||Simulate Game|
|New York Jets||54.7||20||Boxscore|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||45.3||19||Simulate Game|
|New Orleans Saints||77.3||26||Boxscore|
|@ Seattle Seahawks||22.7||16||Simulate Game|
Joel Beall is a Content Writer for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.