AFC Championship Game referee assignment could be a gift for the Chiefs

The Chiefs could be getting a major boost on the road to another Super Bowl victory.

Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes
Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes / Al Bello/GettyImages

Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes will go toe-to-toe in what could be an AFC Championship Game for the ages on Jan. 28 when the defending Super Bowl champions take on the team with the best record in the NFL this past season.

There is no favorite on paper between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, as these two teams have elite quarterbacks and seem just about evenly matched when lining up every single roster spot and intangible in a comparison.

So Sunday's AFC Championship matchup could come down to the tiniest of details, including an intriguing tendency the head match official has.

Ref for the Ravens vs. Chiefs seems to favor the away team

In a thread on X, Warren Sharp detailed how Shawn Smith tends to call more penalties against home teams, especially false starts and unnecessary roughness. Normally, home teams have a 55.9% chance of winning a game. However, when Smith is the presiding official, home sides only win 40.8 percent of the time.

Forget the home-field advantage. Smith evidently causes a home-field DISadvantage, which the Chiefs could capitalize on. This past season, Kansas City were 6-2 on the road while Baltimore was 6-3 at home. Funnily enough, both of these elite AFC teams were better on the road than at home, so they may each also already have a "road"-field advantage.

Given the Chiefs are the road team in this championship game and have an additional advantage with Smith ready to dock home teams for false starts and roughness penalties, Mahomes and Andy Reid have to be feeling extra good about their chances on Sunday. They have that something extra with their Super Bowl experience, and now they can use this boost to get a third ring.

There are a number of reasons why a home-field advantage is posited, and one of them is that refs are a little more leery about making certain calls against home teams in front of a raucous crowd, especially judgment calls like roughness. That Smith isn't afraid of this could easily play into Kansas City's hands, especially if the Ravens get a little too aggressive with hitting Mahomes.

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