AFC Championship Primer: Chiefs vs. Titans

Stop waiting for someone to come pinch you, Titans’s fans. This isn’t a dream. You’re Tennessee Titans are, in fact, in the AFC Championship.

After an improbable blowout of the top-seeded Ravens, the Titans are now one win away from the Super Bowl. First, they’ll have to get past a Chiefs team that put up 51 points last week and that hasn’t lost since Week 10 against this same Titans team. Patrick Mahomes is back fully healthy after battling through an ankle injury he sustained early this season. Damien Williams has five touchdowns over his last two games. Tyreek Hill is still the fastest human being to ever step onto a football field. The odds aren’t great for the Titans.

But The King doesn’t care about your stupid odds. As long as Derrick Henry is healthy and stiff-arming defenders back to elementary school, there’s always a chance for the boys in Two-Toned Blue.

Game Info:

Kansas City Chiefs (-7) vs. Tennessee Titans

Game Time: 2:05 pm CT

Location: Kansas City, MO (Arrowhead Stadium)

TV: CBS

TV Broadcast Crew: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson, Jay Feely

Radio: Titans Radio, 104-5 The Zone

Radio Broadcast Crew: Mike Keith, Dave McGinnis, Amie Wells, Jonathan Hutton, Rhett Bryan

Over/ Under: 53

Stat Corner with Matt:

The kicking game was an area of concern for the Titans for most of the season. Between the three kickers who have attempted field goals this season for the Titans, they’ve gone a combined 8-for-18. So the solution was pretty simple: when we get into the redzone, just score a touchdown. Duh.

Since Ryan Tannehill took over in Week 7, the Titans’s redzone offense has been nearly unstoppable. According to JJ Zachariason on Twitter, since Week 7, the Titans have scored 31 redzone TDs (most in the NFL), and only one redzone field goal (least). They’ve gotten even more efficient in the redzone over the last four games, where they’ve scored TD’s on 11-of-11 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard-line.

And don’t worry. If you can’t remember who the Titans signed to replace Ryan Succop, you probably aren’t alone. Greg Joseph, who was signed off the Panthers’s practice squad prior to Week 16, still hasn’t attempted a field goal in his four games in a Titans’s jersey.

A big part of the Titans’s success in the redzone is Tannehill’s efficiency throwing the ball. He was just the third quarterback since 1991 to finish the regular season with an overall completion percentage and redzone completion percentage higher than 70 percent. Only Drew Brees and Steve Young have been able to clear that bar.

No, the Titans haven’t needed Tannehill to throw for 300+ yards and three touchdowns to win the last two games, but his efficiency in the redzone, whether it be throwing or running, has led the Titans to where they are now: one win away from Miami.

3 Things to Watch: 

-Feed the King: Let’s just begin with the most obvious one, shall we? Here’s what the ideal offensive game plan for the Titans should be on Sunday:

Step 1: Give Derrick the ball.

Step 2: Repeat Step 1.

After his performance in Baltimore, Henry became the first running back ever to rush for more than 180 yards in three straight games. It’s not a secret that the Titans want to employ the same type of game plan on Sunday that has helped get them to where they are now, especially with the high temperature projected to be in the 20s for game time. The Chiefs defense, however, has been of the best in the NFL since the last time these two teams met in Week 10. They’re No. 1 in PPG allowed, 9th in total yards per game, and 4th in efficiency. They don’t have the season-long numbers that the Patriots and Ravens had, but this Chiefs’s defense is more than equipped to slow down Henry. Whether or not they actually will be able to, that’s a different question.

-What will Dean Pees do now?: Outside of the obvious choice, you could argue that the MVP for the Titans over the last two games has been defensive coordinator Dean Pees. You might overlook what his defense did against the Patriots and write it off as the Patriots just not having a good offense. That’s fair. But you can’t undersell how great the game plan was last week to hold Lamar Jackson and the No. 1 offense in the NFL to 12 points. The discipline shown by the entire defense, specifically Kamalei Correa and Logan Ryan, was the result of a coaching masterclass by Pees.

Now he has to do it again.

I know the Titans won a shootout in Nashville against the Chiefs in Week 10, but I’m not sure you want to make a habit of trying to outscore Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. A huge key to this game is how Pees plans on containing the big plays that have been the bread and butter of the Chiefs’s offense all season. They’ve done it so far this postseason. They’ll need to do it again.

-Ryan Tannehill is going to be the reason the Titans win this game: Listen, what Derrick Henry is doing is beyond belief. It’s never been done in the history of the NFL. And that’s why it has to come to an end at some point. I’m not saying Henry gets shut down completely this game, but I don’t foresee him eclipsing 180 yards once again. I do see, however, Ryan Tannehill reminding everyone why he was voted the Comeback Player of the Year and leading the Titans to victory with his arm.

He’s had to sit and watch all week as national talking heads, who just started tuning in to actually watch the Titans play, heap all the praises on Derrick Henry and refer to Tannehill as merely a complimentary piece. Let’s not forget that Tannehill, who led the NFL in passer rating and yards per attempt, is the reason the Titans are in the playoffs to begin with.

I don’t think the game script with be quite as friendly to the Titans’s rushing attack this week, so look for Tannehill to revert back to his regular season ways and lead the Titans to a victory with his arm.

My Prediction: Titans 28, Chiefs 27

I’ve picked against the Titans the last three weeks. I’ve been wrong, thankfully, each time. I’m tempted to pick against them again just to keep the reverse-jinx in tact, but I can’t. I’m picking with my heart this time. There’s just something special with this Titans team and you can feel it when you hear any of their players speak. They fully believe they can win this whole thing, so who am I to pick against fate?

#TitanUp

 

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