Kicking game could provide a big postseason edge

We're all aware of the importance of the kicking game.

(Insert your Steve Hauschka joke here.)

In any game, the placekicker and punter play a huge role in not only putting points on the board but also determining field position.

In the playoffs, that's all magnified.

Every touchback registered, every punt downed inside the 20-yard line, means that the opposing team's offense has to put together a long drive if they're to come away with points.

When you've got the league's No. 5 defense, as the Ravens do, that's huge. And that's why, with kicker Billy Cundiff and punter Sam Koch on top of their games, the Ravens could have a significant advantage in the playoffs.

"We hope it's going to be an edge," head coach John Harbaugh said. "It's part of our plan every week. We've got our special teams playing at a really high level at this point, and really, the last six weeks they've played at as high a level as anybody. We've got to keep building that up. Those two guys are a huge part of that. There's not a better combination in the NFL than those two guys."

As has been well-documented, Cundiff has had a career season, going 26-of-29 on field goal attempts and connecting on every extra point. But his kickoffs could be just as important in the playoffs.

He tied an NFL record with 40 touchbacks in the regular season, and saw the opposing team's kick returner take a knee in the end zone on more than half his kicks.

Koch has been just as solid, averaging a 39.2-yard net on his punts (second in the AFC) and downing a career-high and franchise-record-tying 39 punts inside the 20.

He had only four touchbacks all season, and has excelled at pinning teams against their own goal line.

"I think it's going to be a big difference-maker for us," Cundiff said of the potential special teams edge. "I think what Sam has done speaks for itself. ... He's had a great year. And I've obviously had a few touchbacks this year, so that's a plus for us, for sure."

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