The Kansas City Chiefs host the Tennessee Titans at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday night (3.05 pm ET) in the AFC Championship game.
The Tennessee Titans are the story of playoffs. The sixth-seeded Titans under the stewardship of head coach Mike Vrabel brought about the end of the Patriots dynasty with the 20-13 victory in Foxboro during wildcard weekend.
The narrative surrounding the victory swiftly changed gears after much deliberation across social media. The resulting sheep mentality caught between ‘father time is undefeated’ and ‘if we had Gronk we’d have won’.
Once again the Titans were merely portrayed as a platform to showcase the greatness of Lamar Jackson and company ahead of the last weekend’s divisional matchup.
The result, a king was crowned as Derrick Henry rushed for 195 yards as the Titans ran out 28-12 victors, leaving the number one seeds pondering what could have been.
As for the Chiefs, they played the role of the older sibling during the division round matchup against the Houston Texans.
Like most older siblings they reluctantly stood aside, whilst the Texans basked in the adulation bestowed upon them from the onlooking adults (in this case, football twitter) as they raced out to 24-0 lead.
Unnerved by the showmanship on display, coupled with the horrifying prospect of Bill O’ Brien fast becoming ‘the cool’ uncle. The Chiefs unceremoniously pulled the rug from under the Texans, leaving them in a crumpled heap, lip quivering and in need of a nap to get over the now 28-24 scoreline in favor of the Chiefs.
The Texans struggled to find the answers to the questions posed by the Chiefs throughout the second half. As Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce imposed their will for what turned out to be a comfortable 51-31 victory. Mahomes threw for 321 yards and five touchdowns, whilst Kelce graced the endzone on three occasions.
Tale of the tape
The two teams met back in week 10 in Nashville. Derrick Henry rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns as the Titans won 35-32. Patrick Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, but it was Tyreek Hill who caused the Titans defense problems reeling in 11-of-19 for 157 yards and a touchdown.
Keys to victory: Tennessee
Run, run, run and run. Derrick Henry is averaging 5.71 yards per carry during the postseason (377 yards rushing). Expect that trend to continue against a Chiefs run defense that allowed the eighth-highest total yards (1736) rushing.
Should Henry struggle on the ground the Titans would be wise to utilize Henry in the passing attack as the Chiefs allowed the highest total of receiving yards by running backs (951).
Support from Tannehill. Unlike the regular season, Tannehill’s postseason numbers (completing 51.72% of attempted passes) don’t jump at you. That aside the 31-year-old has played his role to perfection, making a number of impressive throws to devastating effect.
Tannehill does have the edge on Mahomes when it comes to the RedZone. Inside the 20, Tannehill has a completion percentage of 70.27 along with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. As for Mahomes – 51.79 completion percentage, 11 touchdowns, and one interception.
Those numbers become even more favorable for Tannehill inside the 10-yard line – 77.78%, 10 touchdowns, one interception. As for Mahomes – 44%, six touchdowns, and one interception.
What happened to A.J. Brown? The rookie sensation has 13 yards off four receptions and faces a stern test against the Chiefs pass defense that’s ranked eighth overall.
Defensively the Titans were ranked 21st overall. Containing the multitude of weapons the Chiefs have is problematic. Harold Landry led the team in sacks (9) during the regular season and proved to be a thorn in the side of the Ravens (one sack, one tackle for a loss). Can the likes of Logan Ryan and Kevin Byard hide the inadequacies of the 24th overall pass defense?
Keys to victory: Chiefs
I’m out of superlatives when it comes to Patrick Mahomes. There isn’t anything the reigning MVP can’t do. During his three postseason games to date, the 24-year-old has yet to throw an interception.
Mahomes became the first player in NFL history to pass for over 300 yards, throw five touchdown passes whilst adding at least 50 yards rushing during a playoff game.
Against a defense that’s allowed the seventh-highest number of receiving yards (916) along with the third-highest number of touchdowns by tight ends, the stage is set for Travis Kelce. The five-time Pro Bowler has four touchdowns during his last two playoff games and reeled in all seven of his targets for 75 yards and a touchdown during the Week 10 encounter.
The easy choice here would be Tyreek Hill (targeted five times or more during five of his last six games), but my gut tells me Sammy Watkins is primed to have a huge game. The former fourth overall draft selection (Buffalo Bills) of the 2012 draft has failed to grace the endzone since the opening weekend of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Surely opportunities will be present against a defense that’s surrendered the seventh highest total yards to opposing wideouts.
Tyrann Mathieu leads the team with four interceptions and 12 passes defensed. The ‘honey badger’s’ presence in the secondary poses huge problems for the Titans passing attack that was ranked 21st during the regular season.
Chris Jones (9) and Frank Clark (8) lead the way in terms of sacks and the duo will look to expose an offensive line that’s had its endured a rollercoaster season. Clark recorded three sacks during last week’s victory over the Texans.
The concern for the defense is stopping the run, an issue they’ve failed to address all year (ranked 26th).
Chiefs 34, Titans 31
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