Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Titans at Chiefs Preview

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Titans at Chiefs – 3:05 PM EST - CBS

Betting Odds: Kansas City -7, Total 53
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Odds subject to change

Going back on the road for a fourth straight do-or-die situation means the AFC's No. 6 seed isn't sweating a daunting trip into Arrowhead.

Tennessee (11-7 SU, 11-7 ATS) cruised past a Texans team resting their starters in Week 17 to secure its playoff bid regardless of what the Steelers did. The Titans then went into New England and humbled the Patriots 20-13, clinching an upset win on a pick-six of the last pass Tom Brady may ever throw as a member of the team he’s represented for two decades. Last week, they went into Baltimore as a 10-point underdog and shut down an offense led by the guy sure to win MVP honors this season, Lamar Jackson. A 14-win Ravens team that set numerous offensive records was held to just 12 points.

Kansas City (13-4 SU, 10-6-1 ATS) knows exactly what it will be up against, having already lost to the Titans in Nashville back in Week 10 in a game that Derrick Henry took over. That has been the key to this entire postseason run for Tennessee, although seeing its defense excel has certainly also helped. Henry has facilitated that too, helping them stay fresh by keeping them off the field for long stretches due to his remarkable performances bleeding the clock and gaining chunks of yardage on the ground.

Henry gained 188 yards in Tennessee’s 35-32 win on Nov. 10 that was clinched when Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker had a 52-yard field goal attempt blocked on the game’s final play. Patrick Mahomes threw for 446 yards in his return from a dislocated kneecap suffered in mid-October and hasn’t lost since, so Kansas City is definitely confident it can continue to thrive at home, where it has won five straight and burned Houston 51-31 in last week’s divisional playoff round. He’s got a healthy offense around him to try and build upon torching the Titans’ defense for 530 yards despite being down multiple key offensive linemen.

Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce form a combination that stretches a defense to a point where it’s impossible to get everyone covered. The Titans’ offensive line has helped spring Henry to 588 rushing yards on 96 carries over the last three weeks. He broke a 68-yard scoring run against the Chiefs defense in their November win and has shown no sign of slowing down, looking completely recovered from a hamstring injury that hampered him in December. While this will be the eighth Kansas City game this season that closes with a total of 50 or higher, this will only be Tennessee’s second contest featuring a number this large. Houston beat Tennessee 24-21 in Week 15 in a game that closed at 50.5, so this figure, which opened at 52, may be daunting. VI totals expert Chris David provides analysis on the total of the AFC Championship right here.

Kansas City head coach Andy Reid is 1-8 all-time against Tennessee, which is wild considering his teams have largely been excellent throughout his career. The Titans have beaten his Chiefs in three consecutive meetings (’14, ’16, ’19), doing so under three separate head coaches and prevailing as an underdog each time. Two of those contests have been played at Arrowhead. Mike Vrabel is going to have no problem getting his guys to believe they can pull off another upset, especially since players have been quoted saying they prefer the buzz of a road atmosphere in raucous stadiums in Foxboro, Baltimore and now Kansas City as opposed to Nissan Stadium, which often fails to reach full capacity. Tennessee is 7-3 SU and ATS outside of Nashville, which includes five straight wins and covers since Dec. 1.

The Titans are seeking their first Super Bowl appearance since coming up a yard short of potentially tying the Rams in their first season after leaving the Oilers name behind in 1999. Kansas City hasn’t reached the NFL’s showcase event since prevailing in Super Bowl IV back in 1969. This will be just their third championship game appearance since then, having fallen at Buffalo in the ’93 season and last year in OT at home against New England. Reid won Super Bowl XXXI as an assistant with Green Bay but has only advanced past this round as a head coach, coming in 1-5 in championship games in his stints with the Eagles and Chiefs. All of Vrabel’s experience this deep into the postseason has come as a player.

While reigning MVP Mahomes played well in last year’s playoff run and has been largely sublime throughout his career, this uncharted territory for counterpart Ryan Tannehill, who came into the season as Tennessee’s backup and never won in Miami. He’s done a nice job staying within himself during this run, showing off his wheels when necessary. He threw a TD pass to Adam Humphries with 18 seconds left to win the first meeting between these teams and threw for two scores and 181 yards. He also fumbled once and was sacked four times, but may catch a break in avoiding Kansas City’s most feared defensive lineman, Chris Jones.

Jones, a defensive tackle who has blossomed into a star, is nursing a calf injury that may keep him out and severely hinder the Chiefs’ ability to defend against Henry and get after Tannehill. He hurt himself in practice prior to the win over Houston and hasn’t been able to work, throwing his ability to get out there into question. Kelce should be fine despite some knee discomfort. Meanwhile, Humphries, who has missed the past six games since suffering an ankle injury on Dec. 1, appears set to return for Tennessee. Linebacker Jayon Brown also looks like he’ll be back from a shoulder issue, while fellow LB Rashaan Evans and CB Adoree Jackson are expected to get past foot injuries and suit up. Key Titans corner Logan Ryan was ill this week but is also expected to be fine.

The Titans already became the first No. 6 seed to win a playoff game since 2010 this postseason and are hoping to become the third bottom-seed to reach the Super Bowl since the current format came into play, joining the ’06 Steelers and ’10 Packers. Tennessee will be looking to become the fifth team ever to win three consecutive road games and play for it all. Weather in Kansas City is expected to be frigid, with temperatures dropping to seven degrees on Sunday night. For this afternoon game, the high is likely to be in the 20s, but winds won’t be too much of a factor according to AccuWeather, which expects gusts to top out at a rather mild 10-15 miles per hour. Mahomes and the Chiefs will certainly like that.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]

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