AFC headed for grid-iron grudge fest

Baltimore RB Ray Rice celebrates after scoring a TD. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

Baltimore RB Ray Rice celebrates after scoring a TD. REUTERS/Dave Kaup

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:48 AM ET

KANSAS CITY - One will feature a lot of smack talk, the other a lot of smacking.

When it comes to the two AFC divisional playoff matchups next weekend, national television executives must be drooling with glee at the prospect of seeing two of the NFL's best rivalries being revived in the post-season.

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh certainly is.

"Jets versus Patriots. Ravens versus Steelers. It's just poetic justice that these teams are playing against each other," an enthused Harbaugh said.

On Saturday, the New York Jets ensured themselves a date against the hated New England Patriots with a dramatic 17-16 victory over Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Field.

Now that this grudge match is a sure thing, you can bet there will be plenty of tongue wagging from chatty coach Rex Ryan about Pats coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, who combined to humiliate New York 45-3 last month.

On Sunday, another hated rivalry was confirmed when the Ravens embarrassed the Kansas City Chiefs 30-7 here at Arrowhead Stadium, paving the way for a meeting with their despised division foes from Pittsburgh.

Whenever these two teams get together, you can be sure there will be plenty of blood oozing on the field. Saturday at Heinz Field will be no exception.

The Steelers and Ravens split two regular season head-to-head meetings in 2010, both winning on the road. Cue the drumroll. Here comes Round 3.

"It shouldn't surprise anyone that these two teams will be at each other's throats again," Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said.

"This is what the NFL is all about. This is what the world wants to see."

As for the Chiefs, what they don't want to see is any more of snarling Ray Lewis and a bone-crushing Ravens defence that forced five Kansas City turnovers.

Three of those were interceptions thrown by Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who was erratic all day in this, his first career post-season start.

By the time the slaughter had ended, Cassel had completed only 9 of 18 passes for just 70 yards, a subpar performance by a guy who seemed out of sorts all afternoon.

Coming into the game, the Chiefs had not won a post-season game since 1994. Their quarterback at the time? Joe Montana.

On this day, even Tony Montana of Scarface fame might have put up better numbers than Cassel, the long-time backup of Brady in New England.

"It was difficult when things started to go south," Cassel said.

"It was one bad thing after another."

To be fair, this was a tight contest through one half when the Chiefs found themselves trailing just 10-7, thanks in part to an electrifying 41-yard, first-quarter scamper by speedy Jamaal Charles.

The turning point came early in the third quarter with a call that will be second guessed in these parts for the entire offseason.

Facing a fourth-and-a-half-a-yard situation at the Ravens 34, the Chiefs opted to go for the first down instead of trying for the tying field goal.

That's not an issue.

Instead of just plunging up the gut, however, the Chiefs curiously pitched the ball wide to Charles, who was stuffed for a four-yard loss.

Why try such a risky play against such a lightning-quick defence like the Ravens have instead of trying to grind out six inches?

Only the Chiefs coaching staff knows for sure.

Welcoming the strange decision made by their confused hosts, the Ravens reeled off the next 20 points, earning themselves a trip to Heinz Field on Saturday.

The same Heinz Field where they dropped a 23-14 decision to the Steelers in the 2008 AFC championship game, the hardest-hitting, most vicious contest of football yours truly has ever attended.

Maybe Suggs is right.

Maybe the this is the matchup the whole world wants to see.

We certainly do.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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