Now one win from a Super Bowl, the Ravens face a big hurdle in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs

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OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Yes, John Harbaugh will cop to having some Taylor Swift songs on his phone.

Aside from that, he wasn’t playing along when asked about his next opponent’s celebrity fan.

“I haven’t been distracted by that at all,” Harbaugh said. “It hasn’t really crossed my mind at all.”

Harbaugh has enough on his plate trying to coach the Baltimore Ravens to their first Super Bowl in 11 years. The last team standing in the way is the Kansas City Chiefs, who will be in town Sunday for the AFC championship game.

That means a showdown with Patrick Mahomes and a stout Kansas City defense.

“He buys time to run, sometimes. He buys time to throw. He’s just a really elusive guy. You’ll see him in space. Sometimes, he’ll make guys miss,” Harbaugh said. “It’s just Patrick Mahomes. He’s unique. Plays his own brand of football, been very successful. We’ll just have to study him and do our best to try to keep him under wraps.”

And yes, the Ravens will have to contend with Travis Kelce, the tight end whose romance with Swift has brought the pop superstar to NFL games around the country this season.

Kelce is coming off his first game all season with multiple touchdowns. He scored twice at Buffalo on Sunday night.

It’s the fourth time the Ravens have reached the AFC championship game under Harbaugh — the coach is 1-2 in his previous appearances — but the first time with Lamar Jackson at quarterback.

“We’re not in the dance yet, but I’m looking forward to next week, to be honest with you,” Jackson said after Saturday’s win over Houston. “I’m not even thinking about the Super Bowl until we handle business.”

WHAT’S WORKING

Jackson set career highs in several passing categories for the Ravens this season. He also ran for 821 yards, an exceptional number for a quarterback but nearly 400 lower than his total from his MVP season in 2019.

At times, Jackson has seemed to pick his spots when running the ball, perhaps understanding the importance of staying healthy. But in Baltimore’s 34-10 win over Houston, he looked ready to unleash his full repertoire during the postseason.

Jackson ran for 100 yards on 11 carries with two rushing scores to go along with his two passing TDs. He hadn’t scored a rushing touchdown since October.

“You’re going to see him there, then you’re going to see him in the end zone. So, I’ll call him a magician,” receiver Zay Flowers said. “You never know where he (is) going to be.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The Baltimore offense sputtered in the second quarter before the Ravens adjusted to the blitzing Houston defense with short passes. Jackson ended up throwing for 152 yards, his lowest total of the season, and if Baltimore wants to take deeper shots against the Chiefs, the star quarterback will need time.

STOCK UP

Ronald Darby was solid for a defense that overcame the absence of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who missed the game with a calf injury. Darby started eight games in the regular season.

“Ronald Darby has played outstanding. Brandon Stephens has been outstanding. Arthur Maulet has played outstanding. Rock (Ya-Sin) has played outstanding,” Harbaugh said. “All of those guys have stepped up and played very good. The coverage has just been great, and with Marlon, I promise you — if Marlon can go, he will.”

STOCK DOWN

The punt team had a rough day, allowing a 67-yard return for Houston’s only touchdown. Jordan Stout also had a 24-yard punt in the first half that led to a field goal by the Texans.

INJURIES

TE Mark Andrews (ankle) did not play against the Texans, but he has been practicing, which suggests he could be on the field this weekend for the first time since November.

“We’ll just see how he goes. We’re looking forward to it,” Harbaugh said. “He practiced last week, and I’m sure he’ll practice again this week. If he’s ready to play, he’ll play.”

KEY NUMBER

5 — The number of false starts committed by Houston in the game, a sign that the Baltimore crowd was having an effect.

NEXT STEPS

This is the first time Baltimore will host an AFC championship game since the Colts beat the Oakland Raiders in January 1971. The duel between Mahomes and Jackson is the first playoff matchup between former MVP quarterbacks who are both under 30, according to the NFL.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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