Titans at Chiefs: AFC Conference Championship Preview

By: Thomas Capo
Posted: January 18, 2020

Tennessee Titans (11-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (12-5)

Sunday, January 19th, 3:05 pm EST

Someone might want to tell Tyreek Hill to quiet down.  Hill is generally the fastest dude on a football field, but he might not be the smartest to be giving the Titans bulletin board material in front of the AFC Championship game.  

“That’s just the confidence that I got in myself and the wideouts I’ve got around me, including the tight ends and the running backs. I feel like no DB unit, no secondary unit, no linebacker, any defense can guard any of us. So man-to-man is just easy for us to beat. If you just allow us to run through zones, it’s even easier.”

Bad choices.

See, it’s stuff like that that’s been biting the AFC’s top seeds when Tennessee comes to town.  The Ravens pondered publicly if the Patriots top ranked defense was inexplicably choosing to not tackle Derrick Henry in the wildcard round.  How’d that work out for Baltimore and Big Truss? Not well. Henry hammered Baltimore for 195 yards. Baltimore’s high-flying, versatile, and yes, fast, offense was held to twelve points.  MVP in waiting Lamar Jackson was held to one touchdown and two interceptions, while completing a miserable thirty-one of fifty-nine pass attempts. Point being, the Titans are better, all around, than you think they are. 

Quick reminder for those of you who are still gassed up on Patrick Mahomes 2018 MVP campaign, Lamar Jackson threw ten more touchdowns than Mahomes this season, and had a higher completion percentage.  Jackson was the better of the two passers, with a far spottier receiving crew. Tennessee stifled him completely.  

Other things to think about for this matchup.  

Both Baltimore (5th) and New England (6th) were top ten units against the run, so were relatively well situated to slow down the freight train that is Derrick Henry.  Kansas City…not so much. The Chiefs are the seventh-worst rush defense in the league, allowing well over 125 yards per game on the ground.  

You’d think that it would be an easy call to say that Patrick Mahomes is the better of the two quarterbacks in this matchup.  I’d say he is…but… that’s not really what the stats say this season since Tannehill took over for Marcus Mariota halfway through the week six.  Ryan Tannehill has the edge in completion percentage 70.3 to 65.9. He also leads Mahomes (and the league) in QBR 117.5 to 105.3. Yes, Mahomes has thrown four more touchdowns, but he started in four more games this season, so on a per game basis…again, advantage Tannehill.  Seriously. Tannehill hasn’t thrown a ton in the playoffs because he simply hasn’t needed to. Also, Titans rookie WR A.J. Brown has been the best rookie pass catcher all season long ICYMI. My man caught passes for over a thousand yards this season and is AVERAGING twenty yards per catch.  

The point is, A LOT of folks are all in on Patrick Mahomes being the heir apparent to Tom Brady’s run of AFC success. Frankly, I don’t buy it.  Not that Mahomes isn’t good. He is. I just don’t expect him and the Chiefs to go to eight consecutive AFC Championships, though this is two in a row for Andy Reid’s bunch.  

I also don’t know that I expect Kansas City to win this game.  The Chiefs looked impressive in a comeback win over the Texans, who I would argue were the worst overall team in the AFC playoffs.  If they fall behind against Mike Vrabel’s bunch, I don’t know that I see them coming back.  

Prediction: Kansas City’s weakness all season long has been a porous run defense.  That will rear its ugly head, as the Titans advance after beating the AFC’s top three seeds.  Patrick Mahomes will put up stats as always, but Derrick Henry will be the MVP on the night as he does what he’s done all year long, running people over and averaging five yards per carry.  It might not be the story that the NFL wants, but I think that Mahomes will need to be MORE than special to overcome his suspect defense.

Titans 24

Chiefs 21  

For more thoughts and opinions from Tom, check out his author page.

Image Source: AP Images

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