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NFL Playoffs: Ravens' Haloti Ngata Could Cause Problems For Chiefs

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The Ravens' elite defensive tackle makes life miserable for most guards and centers. After the Chiefs showing against the Raiders, this could be worrisome for the Chiefs.

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. The Chiefs have the league's leading pass rusher in Tamba Hali. They have the best running back in football in Jamaal Charles. "Matt Cassel to Dwayne Bowe in the end zone" was called a ridiculous number of times this year. And that doesn't touch the young playmakers like Eric Berry or Glenn Dorsey on defense.

Yet when it comes to naming the most important player or players for the first-round playoff matchup for the Chiefs versus the Ravens, there's only area that matters more than anything else: the interior offensive line. Those already familiar with Baltimore are already shaking their heads because they know just how good Haloti Ngata is. No defensive lineman on this side of Ndamukong Suh (and some would argue with that) is better than Ngata and the Chiefs must be able to provide an answer in the middle.

Consider the Chiefs' complete ineptitude on offense on Sunday against the Raiders. The Raiders dominated KC's line play and forced several miscues and poor decisions for Matt Cassel because he simply had no time to make the play. He was sacked seven times against a defense that knew how to play the Chiefs line and play it well. The Raiders currently have a good-to-great defensive line, but no one along the line compares with Ngata.

At 6-4, 350 pounds, the former Oregon first-rounder has long been considered among the league's best, but this season he's taken that jump to the next level. The entire Ravens' defense sings his praises, and just a few weeks ago, Scouts, Inc.'s Matt Williamson wrote the following:

He is like no other player I have seen. People with his amazing size just shouldn't move like him. He's incredibly powerful. It doesn't matter the scheme, Ngata can excel at any position on the defensive line -- and can also play from a two-point stance or as a goal-line fullback. He is very special ... and getting better.

This places immense pressure on the interior of the line to play at the highest level they can muster. Brian Waters is a Pro Bowl guard and many have praised the additions of Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja, but the Chiefs have exhibited problems when their line can't hold their own, allowing the pressure to get to Cassel far too easily and quickly. There's a reason why guys like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs continue to break into the opponent's backfield, and that's because Ngata is such a force.

The Chiefs depend on their running game, so hopefully Todd Haley and Charlie "Gator" Weis can create schemes to take advantage of the offense's athleticism and keep Ngata in check. If not, the Chiefs will likely be another victim of the Ravens' powerful defensive line.