2020 AFC Championship Game
Tennessee Titans (9-7, 5-3 Away) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, 5-3 Home)
Date: Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020
Time: 3:05 p.m. EST
Venue: Arrowhead Stadium – Kansas City, MO
Titans vs Chiefs Spread and Odds
Moneyline: TEN: (+250) | KC: (-320)
Spread: TEN: +7.5 (-110) | KC: -7.5 (-110)
Total: 53 – Over: (-115) | Under: (-105)
Public (Spread) Betting Percentages via OddsFire: TEN: (45%) | KC: (55%)
Last week, we took a look at the four NFL Divisional Round games. Now that we’ve seen the games, it’s safe to say that there were absolutely no surprises or noteworthy moments at all during the weekend of football. Nothing to report, sorry.
All we got on the AFC side was the downfall of the Super Bowl-favorite Ravens at the hands of the hungry Titans, along with what could go down as one of the oddest-ever first halves of professional football, ending with a blowout by a Chiefs team that had ceded 24 points to the Texans start the game. Entertainment value was through the roof, and now, these two teams have the privilege to play in the conference championship with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
Now, I’ve already taken a pretty close look at the Titans’ and Chiefs’ strengths and weaknesses; those haven’t really changed since a week ago. In fact, both games really solidified how each team will beat you.
Because of that, I’m going to do this preview a little different. I’ll be giving what each team needs to do if they want to come out on top. I absolutely love both of these teams and I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them book their spot in Super Bowl LIV.
Currently, the Chiefs are 7.5-point home favorites, on many of the best NFL betting sites. Let’s jump into it.
How the Titans Can Win
1) Hit them in the mouth
Funny fact that I’m sure I’m the first to bring up: The Titans actually beat the Chiefs earlier this season. I said last week that it was the best game I saw this year, which is much of the reason why I’m so excited for this rematch. In that game, Derrick Henry carried the ball 23 times, which should be the minimum he sees in this game. More Henry has simply led to more Titans success, and I can already hear the analytics guys complaining about how correlation isn’t causation, and I don’t really disagree with them, except when it comes to Henry.
When Henry can consistently bulldoze his way six or seven yards to set up second and short situations time after time, it will demoralize a defense. The problem with most backs is that they can’t do it consistently, but Henry can, which is why these Titans are bucking all the trends. The Chiefs rush defense is one of the very worst in the league (allowing 4.9 yards per rush), even worse than both Baltimore and New England, so if the Titans want to win again, they need to do even more of what they did last time; Feed Henry until the defense begs for mercy.
2) Force Patrick Mahomes to make a mistake
Obvious, right? Well, when you’re an underdog like the Titans, it’s all about limiting your own mistakes and somehow getting your opponent to make a few of their own. The Titans beat the Ravens because of two turnovers and two fourth down stops, which all but extinguished the Ravens offense and gave the Titans more possessions on better field position. They’ll need to find a way to lure Mahomes and the Chiefs into similar traps.
3) Take every risk
Maybe not kick-a-fake-punt-on-your-own-30-type risks, but perhaps anything beyond that. The Titans have the hottest running back in the league and a mobile quarterback that has shown he can step up when needed; they have the tools to convert in short yardage and they need to use them whenever the moment calls for it. When the Titans get into a position to score points, they shouldn’t settle for three unless they absolutely have to. But maybe I don’t need to tell them, considering the Titans haven’t attempted a field goal since Week 15 of the regular season.
How the Chiefs Can Win
1) Do your job
Is my Patriots bias showing? Sorry, but this is the truth. If the Chiefs don’t seriously make game-altering mistakes like the Ravens did, they have the upper hand in this game. They possess the best passing attack since the 2014 Broncos and should easily be able to outscore the Titans run-based attack, if they stay cool and play their game.
The innumerable drops in the first quarter were a big reason why the Chiefs fell behind so quickly against the Texans, but drops aren’t a problem that have plagued the Chiefs any more than other teams (T-15th most drops this season). Mahomes only threw five interceptions this season, which should give the Chiefs the edge over the Titans in Tennessee’s efforts to try to take the ball from him. I don’t expect the Chiefs to run the ball very often, but Damien Williams needs to hold onto the football. The Chiefs need to make the Titans win on their own merit.
2) Make Ryan Tannehill play quarterback
Ryan Tannehill is getting praise for the way he’s played since taking over, but he’s had to do next to nothing since the playoffs started. The Titans have won both games without the need for a quarterback, which isn’t a knock against Tannehill so much as it is awe of Derrick Henry. If Chris Jones is unable to go, that will be a problem, but backup Mike Pennel had a solid game in relief and the Chiefs were able to bottle up the Texans run game. Since Carlos Hyde is essentially one tenth of what Derrick Henry is, take from this what you will, but at least the inept Chiefs run defense stopped somebody.
If they can just hold Henry to a normal game, or even just a very good game instead of a historic game, the Titans will be forced to pass more than they have in recent weeks, and that opens up a barrel of monkeys that Mike Vrabel has been trying to keep closed. Just give Tyrann Mathieu and the rest of this secondary some way to change this game. Henry just can’t rush for 180 yards, which is seemingly a tall task, but that should be possible, right?
3) Do what the Titans can’t (or won’t)
And that’s taking shots downfield. The Titans are a strong defensive team that can intercept the ball if you aren’t careful, but sorry State Farm, the Chiefs don’t play it safe. Kansas City didn’t get here by carefully trying not to turn the ball over. They did it because they took shots and made them and they didn’t turn it over along the way because they’re more talented than your team. This Chiefs offense will beat anybody when they’re clicking, and what the Titans defense just did to the Ravens shouldn’t discourage them from playing Chiefs football. The potential these Chiefs possess is limitless, but the same was said about the Ravens.
Derrick Henry will get his. Maybe he even has a game on par with his previous games, and if he does, that will give the Chiefs everything they can handle, but it won’t be enough. Henry will be stalled just enough times to give the Chiefs more than enough possessions to get the points they need to win this game. KC ironed out their kinks in the first half of their last game, and now the offense is humming at such a rate that nobody’s stopping them now. Maybe Ryan Tannehill can put a decent game together in a comeback effort, but if Tannehill is forced to play from behind and takes the ball out of Derrick Henry’s hands, only a miracle will save them.
Obviously, the Titans have done it before in a beautifully played game, but that game involved a Titans scoop-and-score as well as a banged up Mahomes, and even then the Titans only avoided overtime with a blocked kick. Nobody plays harder than the Titans, and nobody is questioning whether or not they have what it takes to win anymore, but this third playoff game will be too much against an offense that won’t be stopped by anybody. Patrick Mahomes and these Chiefs will raise the Lamar Hunt trophy and get to their first of what could be many Super Bowl appearances.
Final Score: Chiefs 31, Titans 21
Let me know on Twitter what you think. Are the Titans being disrespected? It feels like they are, but at the same time, here I am betting on the Chiefs to cover on the best betting sites. I’m still skeptical of Tennessee’s ability to score, and I’m not sure that defense is top-tier enough. It’s good, but good enough for a healthy Mahomes and the Chiefs? Jeez, it was good enough for Lamar Jackson and those Ravens, but that was a different style of offense. I’m going to stay with my pick, but I really just can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.