Ravens on offense: Ray Rice powers the Baltimore offense. The 5-foot-8-inch, 205-pound tailback is muscular and quick. Rice has excellent vision and patience, and if there is a cutback lane to be found, he will exploit it. He’s not a true speed demon but he shows impressive acceleration at the second level. He’s also an excellent receiver. Willis McGahee is a better-than-average backup, but there are a lot miles on his tires. Quarterback Joe Flacco (6-6, 230) is a big man with a big arm. He has tremendous zip but lacks touch and will force too many balls into double coverage. Anquan Boldin (64 receptions) and Derrick Mason (61) give Flacco two quality targets. Boldin is tough and explosive, while Mason runs precise routes and has strong hands. Fragile tight end Todd Heap (he could get hurt walking to the practice bubble) is fearless, but he is on the receiving end of two or three big hits every game.
Chiefs on defense: Linebackers Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali have been quietly terrorizing opponents all season. Johnson, a big, swift, instinctive inside presence, collected 122 total tackles. On the outside, the ferocious Hali (15 sacks) uses power and speed to overcome blockers and collapse the pocket. Rookie safety Eric Berry (92 tackles, 4 interceptions) has tremendous range.
Chiefs on offense: Kansas City features the best tailback tandem in the playoffs (sorry, New England). Jamaal Charles (1,467 yards) and Thomas Jones (896) grind down defenses. Charles (5-11, 200) is a real burner. He has a wicked first step, and when he sees a crease, he’s gone. Jones is more of a mover and a shaker. He waits for his blocks to develop and then slides through the openings before exploding onto the second level. Charles and Jones have forced teams to stack the box against the Chiefs, providing quarterback Matt Cassel opportunities to make plays. Cassel (6-4, 230) has good size, a decent arm, and above all else, intelligence. He rarely makes risky throws and has shown impressive toughness. Dwayne Bowe (72 catches, 15 TDs) has emerged as one of the best receivers in the game. The 6-2, 221-pounder is physical and strong.
Ravens on defense: There are still playmakers on this aging unit. Linebacker Ray Lewis sets the tone. The 15-year veteran is exceptionally smart and instinctive. He makes plays everywhere. Fellow ’backer Terrell Suggs is strong, fast, and mouthy. Ed Reed is one of the most versatile safeties in the game. He has the range and cover skills to play back and the brute force to play close to the line.
Special teams: Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop has nailed 20 of his 26 field goal attempts, with a long of 53 yards . . . KC punter Dustin Colquitt has an impressive 44.4-yard average, dropping 33 inside the 20-yard line . . . Chiefs’ Dexter McCluster has a 20.3-yard average on 26 kick returns, while Javier Arenas has a 21.2-yard average on 24 kick returns . . . Arenas returned 39 punts for 322 yards (8.3-yard average) . . . Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff is 26 of 29 on field goals, including a long of 51 yards . . . Ravens punter Sam Koch has a 43.6-yard average on 81 punts, including 39 inside the 20 . . . David Reed (29.3 yards) and Jalen Parmele (23.4) split Baltimore’s kick return duties . . . Lardarius Webb has a 9.5-yard average on punt returns.
Miscellany: These teams have never met in the postseason . . . John Harbaugh has led the Ravens to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons . . . Baltimore is 4-1 in wild-card games . . . Kansas City is hosting a playoff game for the first time since Jan. 11, 2004 . . . Baltimore is 14-4 when Rice rushes for 80-plus yards . . . KC’s Jones has five rushing TDs in seven playoff tilts . . . Chiefs are 5-0 at New Arrowhead when Cassel posts a 100-plus passer rating.