TITANS @ CHIEFS – AFC TITLE GAME PREVIEW (1-19-20)
CAN THE TITANS WIN ON ROAD AGAIN AND SHOCK THE WORLD UPSETTING CHIEFS IN TITLE GAME?
VEGAS BETTING ODDS: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (-7 or -7 1/2) vs. TENNESSEE TITANS ~ TOTAL: (52)
TENNY TITANS (#12) OFFENSE: (139 RUSH, 224 PASS) vs. KC CHIEFS (#17) DEFENSE: (128 RUSH, 221 PASS allowed)
KC CHIEFS (#6) OFFENSE: (98 RUSH, 281 PASS) vs. TENNY TITANS (#21) DEFENSE: (105 RUSH, 255 PASS allowed)
We are now down to the NFL’s version of the Final 4 as we are left with 4 teams vying for the two mostly coveted tickets handed out in all of the NFL each season. This is it, win and you got to the Super Bowl, hence the biggest game of mostly every player on the field this Sunday. The AFC Title game presents us with two basically opposite Offenses as one loves to run and just beat you physically to a pulp and the other with prolific passing attack to some of the speediest wide outs we’ve ever seen in the NFL. What it comes down to though is what style of Offense will prevail sending the winner to the Super Bowl in Miami in 2 weeks. They say “Opposites don’t attract”, but in this case they both do. They win doing it exact opposite ways, but boy are both ways really impressive.
Handicappers can use many ways to predict a games outcome and using stats (good and bad) are a first way to handicap a game. But for this game you must go deeper into just the final stats of the regular season by each team as both have some misleading numbers. The Titans were simply atrocious with QB M. Mariota at the helm, but once they inserted current QB Ryan Tannehill to the main spot, well they simply were fantastic. With Tannehill as starting QB the Titans are (9-3), including back to back Road wins in the Playoffs over Division winners New England and Baltimore. They have actually beaten all 4 Division winners in the AFC this season. They didn’t luck their way to this Title game, the bulldozed their way in. So for the Titans, the real stats are the ones with Tannehill as the starting QB. It’s kinda same for KC Chiefs, with, or without young superstar QB Pat Mahomes, and also the Defense has been “night and day” since Week 11 (allowing only 14.3 points per game since then), unlike the terrible D that played weeks 1-10. He missed a stretch and they had a Defense that somehow went from horrible to fantastic in the second half of the season. So both teams overall final stats are to be taken with a grain of salt.
The Titans are trying to pull off one of the greatest feats possible, winning all 3 Playoff games on the Road. Nothing has fazed this Titans team on the Road, or as the Underdog. They won all 4 games as Dog of 4 points or more, straight up and ATS. If you can beat the Patriots at Foxboro in a Playoff game and then beat a 14-2 Ravens team at their house, you gotta know this teams confidence is hitting the Moon right now. Both sides of the ball are clicking on all cylinders and they are pretty solid on Special teams as well. It will take a near flawless game to beat them right now. In the first month I screamed at the TV as the Titans Offense, QB and OL for most part, were simply the worst in the league. They couldn’t get a first down or move ball at all. It was looking like they could be picking early in the next Draft. Then they changed QB’s and gave Dolphins reject, QB Tannehill, a chance to provide a spark. He went out and provided a fireworks display to an Offense that was the Titantic. His pocket presence and willingness to hand in the pocket that extra second has made opponents no longer able to load the box to stop the run game. Once that happened, well RB Derrick Henry became the newest Beast Mode, as he started just bulldozing every Defense in his way and that happened really opened up the passing attack too. That also helped out a Defense being worn out thanks to a terrible Offense now staying on the field. The Titans needed to win their last 2 games to make the Playoffs. They did and once they got here, they decided to stay. After going just 38% on 3rd downs in the regular season, they went (13-25) (52%) in their 2 Playoff wins. To win against other elite teams you must keep their very likely superstar QB’s OFF THE FIELD. In the second half vs. the Patriots and the first half last week vs. the Ravens, the Titans Defense held both top Offenses to just 2 Field Goals. Not one TD was allowed and with the running of Henry (3 straight 180 rushing yards games), they simply would not allow them to make a comeback. Henry is averaging an incredible (5.9) yards per carry this postseason.
As for the Chiefs, this is a team loaded with the most speed on Offense I’ve ever seen. Add in the best young QB in the NFL and you have the recipe for some fireworks on Offense every game out, regardless the Defense facing them. You have heard “you can only hope to contain (him) them”? That is the perfect and only line needed for the Titans Defense here vs. Mahomes and Company. How good is the KC Offense? Well the stats say only the 6th best Offense in the NFL. Is this true? Not a chance. This is right now the best Offense in the league and the best set of players on the field we’ve seen on an Offensive Unit in years. Last week KC fell behind 24-0. They were in comeback mode yet they seemed to comeback in like a NY minute. Their longest drive last week was (3:55). Four of their scoring drives took a mere 92 seconds of less. In the final 40 minutes of that comeback win over the Texans, they outscored them by a whopping 51-7 margin. Look folks most kids video games wouldn’t even allow that to happen. The Rams under Kurt Warner were dubbed the “GREATEST SHOW ON TURF”. This Chiefs team is more like “THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, POSSIBLY EVER”! You simply can not totally stop the speed of Hill, Hardman, Watkins, Robinson and even TE Kelce. You almost have to force turnovers to keep this Offense from hitting 35 points.
TITANS OFFENSE WENT FROM RED IN THE RED ZONE TO MONEY GREEN WITH TANNEYHILL:
The Titans were ranked 19th in the Red Zone during the regular season, with a lot of that downside attributed to Mariota in the early portion. In these Playoffs, the Titans Offense is 5-5 inside the Red Zone (all Touchdowns). This Titans Offense hasn’t even kicked a FG in it’s last 4 games combined. Tannehill has scored 70% inside the Red Zone this season, only 3rd time that rate accomplished since 1991 (Terry Bradshaw). Now see the Titans Offense averaged (30.4) points a game since week 7 and 406 total yards per game in that same period (both 3rd best in NFL). Tanneyhill since week 7 has the highest QB Passer Rating (117.5) in the league, ahead of even Mahomes. He has passed for at least 1 TD in every game he started all the regular season and both Playoff games. Tanneyhill only passed for 160 passing yards on (15-29) passing in those two Playoff wins (also 3 TD passes), with some of the most perfect passes thrown this entire NFL season. Simply put he has been really one of the 2 best QB’s since week 7 in this league. He proved what you can do with some talent around you and he’s as poised in the pocket as Brady, Brees or Mahomes. He isn’t the same big name, but he’s playing at elite level this season. He threw for 2,724 yards in only 10 starts, on a team with a stud running back just running wild and taking pass chances away from him. He simply hasn’t made costly mistakes and his 5 interceptions and 22 TD’s proves he can do the exact opposite of Ravens QB Jackson: NOT LOSE THE GAME with terrible decisions and reckless handling of the ball.
KEYS TO THIS GAME:
As I said, both teams are on a roll, but both win totally opposite. The Titans run the ball, and they face a KC Defense not so great stopping the run (allow 128 rypg). Then we see the Chiefs Offense that loves to pass it all over the yard (281 pass yards per game) facing a Titans Defense that allows a very high 255 pass yards per game. In the regular season meeting between these two it was a high scoring affair, with the Titans upsetting the Chiefs 35-32. The game was basically dominated by the Chiefs as their Offense piled up 530 total yards to just 371 for the Titans. Mahomes passed for 446 yards, incredibly in his first game back from his kneecap injury. The Chiefs held the ball in that game a whopping (37:52 to 22:08) minutes of possession time. How the Hell did the Chiefs lose you ask? Well the Titans Defense simply did something most Opposing Defenses haven’t been able to do, they kept the Chiefs high flying Offense to 5 FG’s on 12 of the Chiefs drives, returned a fumble for a TD and blocked the possible game tying Field Goal in the final seconds. You want to beat this Chiefs team you better put forth a “perfect game”. And the Titans did it in that win and they did it in both Playoff wins so far as well. This Titans team has been deadly on both sides of the ball and fully deserve to be in this Title game.
One of the toughest challenges for the Titans Defense will actually not even be stopping the speedy Chiefs wide outs. It will be stopping KC’s stud Tight End Travis Kelce. The Titans D allowed 9 TD’s to Tight Ends this season (4th worst) and Kelce (on one leg) is coming off a spectacular 3 TD game and 134 receiving yards as well. If they try to double Kelce they will likely get burned by the deep ball as T. Hill had 157 receiving yards in that first game loss earlier this year. Last week early on the Chiefs were dropping passes when not even covered closely. That stalled drives from easy third down completions and moving the chains. Those drops stopped at 24-0 and the focus likely will stay much better this game from the get go. Mahomes right now is playing very loose and have another big effort Sunday in this rematch.
Can the Titans Henry run all over the Chiefs for a fourth straight monumental type performance? Luckily for the Chiefs they should return stud Pass Rusher Frank Clark. One might say he’s a pass rusher, not a middle run stuff guy? Well folks Clark is a pass rushing Monster and now they can afford to keep a LB or Safety closer to the box to slow the run thanks to Clark likely getting such good pressure he can force Tannehill to pass ball before the wide outs become open vs. a more one on one coverage and holes in the middle (Tannehill is really good at hitting the middle of field receivers, even ones covered). Hard to think KC doesn’t say look if we are going to lose, it’s Tannehill or Henry beating us and we choose Tannehill. Pick your poison and insanely picking the hottest QB in the NFL as your preferred choice is the right one. Receivers drop passes even when wide open and more pass calls mean more Holding calls (drive killers) ~ (also see Head Ref stats below). Letting Henry run wild and kill clock and keep Mahomes and his speed demons off the field is not the recipe for success KC wants. If Tannehill somehow out duals your TOP GUN Mahomes, you can live with that.
SPECIAL TEAMS COULD PLAY VITAL ROLE IN THIS GAME:
Last week the Chiefs Special Teams imploded with a Hill fumbled Punt, a Punt Blocked for a TD and a Missed Extra Point. Nobody even remembers those bad blunders since the Chiefs came back and not just won, but won big. But they happened and the next time they may not be able to overcome such tragic blunders. One way to at least slow Mahomes down some is force him to go long fields and long drives before he can add points. The Titans have a strong weapon in Punter B. Kern, who is averaging just shy 50 yards per punt and 5 punts inside the 20. As for the Titans Kicking game, well their Kicker has a whopping ZERO field goals made for the team so far this SEASON. Not this Playoffs, this season. In the first meeting the Chiefs Special Teams botched a FG snap and had the game winning FG try blocked. The Chiefs don’t have many flaws, but this one may be Fatal if this happens again on Sunday. Regardless of what blunders the Chiefs ST made last week or in the first meeting, they possess T. Hill and M. Hardman, the two most electric returners in the NFL on Special Teams. They can race the entire field for Touchdowns and totally change momentum, something the Titans do not want playing on the Road in the biggest “SEA OF RED” we’ve ever seen.
EVERYONE LOVES OLE ANDY REID….BUT MY MAN SIMPLY CAN’T WIN THE “BIG GAME”
If you are a NFL lover of all teams and Players and Coaches, you at times love a certain guy or coach or hate one. In the case of a love fest like we’ve never seen when we are talking Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid, it’s never a bad word said. I mean never, ever, ever. One of the most loved Coaches of all time. But the one thing he doesn’t have is a ring. He’s only (13-14) in all his Playoff games and just 3-5 in Playoff Games as Chiefs Head Coach. He’s played in 6 Title games (1-4 with Eagles and 0-1 with Chiefs) and has little to show for his strong regular seasons. Look he’s close to the same as Vikings QB Kirk “Never Won a Big Game” Cousins. He’s nowhere near that bad but you get the point. He is even (1-8) all time vs. the Titans. At some point you gotta break that door down and get rid of the lifelong demons. Sports are cruel. Many players simply could never win “the Big One”. For Andy Reid, the time is now to get back to a Super Bowl and to do that he must win his second Title game in 7 tries. A loss here will severely tarnish his cred down the road.
HEAD REF STATS:
The Head Referee for this game is Tony Corrente. His crew called 17.1 Penalties a game this season (5th most). He is also the complete buffoon Ref that at first allowed the Bills a TD on a fair catch call on a Kickoff. It took a bunch of sharp refs also on that crew to rush in and tell him he just made the worst call of all time. Luckily he changed it quickly after that chat with other crew members.
Good news for the AFC is the best two teams made it to their Title game. Ravens may have seen like they should be here, but look QB Jackson simply wasn’t ready again for the biggest game of his life. The Titans didn’t beat them by one bad play, they manhandled them like Men vs. Little kids. Now it’s down to the kids (Titans) who want to fight in a phone booth bruising you with hard body shots vs. the kids (Chiefs) who want to hit you over and over slowly with knife throws killing you from afar. This game is eerie similar to AFC Title Game a few years ago when an upstart Jaguars QB Blake Bortles went to Foxboro, with a team just like this Titans team, passed for 376 yards and 4 TD’s and sadly just fell short of the gigantic Upset win. Can Tannehill have a big game like Bortles did in the biggest setting of his life?? If he puts up those numbers Bortles did he may be more because the run game got shut down and lots of those yards were in comeback mode. I know this, one guy who was on the sidelines for that AFC Title game, Titans HC Mike Vrabel. The Jaguars dominated the Pats that day (Brady only passed for 234 yards), but they got too conservative and stopped moving ball in second half. They weren’t able to run out the close and grab the Upset for the ages. Vrabel knows this not from that game only as he saw what the Texans did last week. They got conservative (kicking a FG on fourth and inches) and then got stupid trying a fake punt on their own side of the field. For the Titans to outdo the Chiefs Mahomes they must even the run to pass ratio and allow Tannehill to get into a good groove passing the ball. Henry should have a big day but not 180 big. More like 110 big. Mahomes is young. Unlike the Ravens Jackson (and well Cousins in all his big games), Mahomes is as smooth as the other side of the pillow in Playoff games. Bright lights don’t hurt his eyes at all. Mahomes has passed for 8 TD’s and 0 Interceptions and 893 passing yards in his previous Playoff tries hitting a nice 62% of his passes. Did he lose the game vs. the Patriots last year here? Absolutely not. The Pats won the OT coin flip, went down and scored a TD and poor Mahomes never got a chance to win it late. He surely is a young kid with ice in his veins and showing he wasn’t rattled a bit down 24-0 last week proved he’s one of the coolest ice cubes we’ve maybe ever seen.
It will be a frigid cold in KC for this one. Only 23 degrees. I get a cold in 53 degrees. Funny thing is thats same temp as least week. Heck it’s gonna be hotter than last week. And what did we see there? We saw a combined 770 yards passing (this amount was with multiple dropped balls), over 200 yards combined rushing and 82 combined points. So much for the cold being a problem slowing down the Offenses huh? Unless ice hits the field and guys are slipping and falling down this game will be a fun one that will provide fireworks and we hope no bad Reffing as well.
Enjoy the AFC Title game and hope your wagers all WINNING ones!