Ravens face difficult road test

OWINGS MILLS -- There are few trump cards in the NFL like raucous Arrowhead Stadium. Especially around this time of year. Heading into Sunday's football game against the Baltimore Ravens (9-3), the Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) are 5-1 this season at home.

Plus, the Chiefs haven't lost at home in December in 18 games for the longest streak in the league since 1970. Their last loss at home in December was against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 15, 1996.
Because of a 2-4 road record, though, the Chiefs are part of a five-team logjam of 7-5 clubs.
"Oh yeah, this team is different at home than playing on the road," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That home-field advantage we all want, that we have because of our fans and it's very clear-cut and tangible, they have in spades. Their record indicates that. That's real."
Kansas City, which has won its past five games at Arrowhead and is 12-2 (.857) at home since the start of last season, is coming off a 31-28 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns. Three of the Chiefs' five losses have come by three points with two of the defeats in road overtime games.
The Chiefs are banking on utilizing another loud atmosphere making it difficult for the Ravens to call their audibles.
"I tell you what, it's amazing for an outdoor venue," said Billick, who hasn't coached in Kansas City since he was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator. "You have to prepare for that the exact same way and within the same confines in terms of the game plan and what you think you can get done, audible-checking, communicating, that whole nine yards, as you do when you go into any dome. You really do."
Another reality is the Chiefs' head-to-head superiority against Baltimore with an undefeated mark in three previous games. However, the Ravens have never traveled to Arrowhead. Kansas City is 7-2 in its last nine games against franchise playing their first games in the regular season at Arrowhead.
Besides having seven-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez on their roster, the Chiefs feature running back Larry Johnson. He ranks second in the NFL in both rushing (1,312 yards) and yards from scrimmage (1,687).
"He's matured as a back, very, very physical," Billick said. "That's the best offensive line in football clearly. I don't think I'm alone in that assessment.
"That's a tough combination. They are impressive to watch, and their commitment to the run is substantially different than it has been."
Although the Ravens lost their chance to clinch the AFC North early because of a 13-7 loss Thursday to the Cincinnati Bengals and can't clinch the division until Dec. 17 at the earliest, there is one multi-team scenario where Baltimore can assure itself of a playoff berth this weekend provided that a number of events transpire.
The Ravens have to win at Kansas City combined with the Bengals losing this weekend along with the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos, which would assure Baltimore an edge over the Jets in the strength of victory tiebreaker.
If the season was over today, the Ravens would play the Jets in the playoffs. Baltimore owns the No. 3 playoff seed in the AFC behind the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers.
Unlike the Ravens' initial playoff run in 2000, which they parlayed into a Super Bowl title, Billick hasn't placed a ban on discussing the playoffs. Back then, offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo dubbed the playoffs ‘Festivus," borrowing a term from the "Seinfeld" television program.
"We've been through that before," Billick said. "We created a whole cottage industry, of which I received nothing by the way. This is a different group, a different heritage. That organization had never been to the playoffs. This organization has been to the playoffs.
"It's real for us, but this group is very focused on the task at hand and not only wanting to win the division and get into the playoff, but secure seeding that gives us an advantage in into the playoffs. So, their thinking about that is fine with me."
NOTES: The Ravens have improved to first in total defense and 23rd in total offense. … Wide receiver Derrick Mason, cornerback Samari Rolle and quarterback Kyle Boller will host a Holiday Helpers event on Thursday at the Pikesville Target where they'll give out $150 gift certificates for 100 children. The players donated $15,000.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Maryland.

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