NFL Playoffs AFC Championship Preview: Titans at Chiefs

NFL Playoffs AFC Championship Preview: Titans at Chiefs 5

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

Spread: Chiefs -7.5 | Over/Under: 52.5

The AFC Championship game features one team we all kind of expected to make it this far all along, and one team riding a magical season as far as it will take them. The Titans have done the unthinkable to get here. First, they go to Foxborough for the Wild Card Round and take down the defending champs and constant postseason punisher in the Patriots. Then, they’re on to Baltimore to face the hottest team in football and frontrunner for league MVP in Lamar Jackson who has had more or less two weeks worth of rest on their side. Done. Next up? Travel to Kansas City to face a Chiefs team that they already beat once this season.

The Chiefs are coming off a rollercoaster game themselves after being down 24-0 at one point early against the Texans last week, fans were in shock as their season surely looked like it was over in a hurry. The team came back to outscore the Texans 51-7 over basically the final three-quarters of the game to mount a historic comeback and put them one step closer to their first Super Bowl berth since 1970. Analyzing regular-season rematches for a postseason game can be a slippery slope, but let’s get down to it.

Keys to the Game: Titans

The key to the game for the Titans is pretty simple. Feed Derrick Henry. He is the skeleton key for this team with the ability to run through any door at any time against any opponent. Henry dismantled the Chiefs when these teams met back in Week 10. He carried the ball 23 times for 188 yards (8.2 YPC) and two rushing TDs. He also has five rushing TDs in three career games against the Chiefs and has gone over 150 rushing yards in his last two games against them. The Chiefs defense has been vulnerable against the run this season ranking bottom-eight in the league while allowing 128 rushing yards per game.

The other key for the Titans is that their defense cannot give up the big plays. Though the Titans won 35-32 when these teams met back in Week 10, the defense still got gashed giving up a season-high 530 of total offense. Tyreek Hill had a big day hauling in 11-of-19 targets for 157 yards and one TD. Damien Williams also went for over 100 yards from scrimmage. Even Mecole Hardman got in on the action tagging them for a 63-yard TD. Pat Mahomes threw for 446 yards and three TDs in that game. You could say the Titans were lucky to come away with a win in that one, and if it weren’t for a Rashaan Evans fumble recovery for a TD, the Titans would have lost.

Keys to the Game: Chiefs

The keys to the game for the Chiefs is a little more complex. First, they need to shake off any weary feelings of postseason failures of the past whether it be Andy Reid’s poor track record or the team’s lack of success in getting to the big game. They need to keep the momentum that they had against the Texans in the back half of that game rolling into this one. They can’t make stupid mistakes like they did last week with the muffed punt and like they did earlier this season against the Titans by losing a fumble that was returned for a TD.

Second, they need to basically just do exactly what they did against the Titans earlier this season. With the production they put up on offense in Week 10, they could have and should have easily won that game. But explosive offense alone won’t always win you the game. Just ask the Buccaneers. They need to find a way to contain Derrick Henry while also not completely giving up too much coverage in the mid- and deep-field positions, because as we have seen all season, the connection that Ryan Tannehill has with A.J. Brown can kill you with one big play.

Fantasy Take

Both of these teams have the potential to put up some gaudy numbers on offense as evidenced by the high set total over 50 points for the matchup. That makes this game the most intriguing of the two this week and stacking this game alone could hit big money. Let’s take a look at some of the best plays of the week.

Quarterbacks

If I told you earlier in the season that you had to choose between Ryan Tannehill and Mahomes as a QB in fantasy you would have laughed in my face, but here we are. Mahomes is the most expensive QB this week and for good reason. The Titans rank in the top five for most fantasy points allowed to QBs this season according to DraftKings. Mahomes is coming off a monster performance last week against the weak Texans secondary and put up 41.1 points on DK.

Ryan Tannehill is tempting at a $2,200 discount compared to Mahomes, but a deeper look at his recent numbers for fantasy purposes doesn’t give you too much to get excited about. Tannehill has thrown for less than 200 yards in each of his last three games and less than 100 yards in his last two. His fantasy day was saved last week thanks to a rushing TD. With the team feeding Henry 30+ touches in each of the last three games, it is hard to get behind Tannehill in this one despite the Chiefs also ranking top-10 in most fantasy points allowed to QBs.

Running Backs

Derrick Henry and Damien Williams are the two most expensive backs on DK this week with Henry really in a tier of his own as the most expensive play of the week. It is possible to lock both Mahomes and Henry into your lineups and put together some I don’t completely hate despite them both being expensive and chalk plays. You have to round out your roster with a dice-roll RB2 option like Matt Breida, though. No matter what, you have to play Henry though. The guy has gotten 30+ touches in each of his last three games, has shredded the Chiefs before, and will shred them again. The dude is on another level right now. Don’t overthink it.

With the way the Titans completely shut down the Ravens running game last week, I am not really feeling Damien Williams at his price point this week despite the fact that he has put up some decent numbers in his last three games. You also don’t really want any part of the backups on either side of the ball in this game.

Wide Receivers

Tyreek Hill and A.J. Brown are the top-two WR plays for this matchup with Hill being the second-most expensive WR this weekend under Davante Adams. As mentioned earlier, Hill had a monster game against the Titans earlier this season going 11-157-1 on 19 targets. Brown hasn’t really been heard from since the playoffs started with only two catches for 13 yards in the last two games. This has driven his price down to a pretty attractive number on DK at $5,200, priced as the WR4 this week just below Deebo Samuel. It’s the lowest his price has been in the last two months really. Considering he is a boom/bust option at this point, it is somewhat of a risk, but he has slate-breaking potential that can be reached on low volume.

As far as value plays are concerned, if you want to load up on higher-priced plays and fill the gaps with a cheap play or two here, Mecole Hardman is flex worthy at only $3,800 on DK. He had a big TD against the Titans earlier this season and brings the bonus TD potential on special teams as well. If the Titans decide they want to lock up Tyreek also after what he did to them earlier this season, that could leave Hardman with extra room to run. I wouldn’t play with any Titans receiver outside of Brown with the low volume we have seen from the passing game lately.

Tight Ends

NFL Playoffs AFC Championship Preview: Titans at Chiefs 6Travis Kelce is obviously the most expensive play of the week at TE and the fourth-most expensive flex play overall. He put up a dominant 10-134-3 line in last week’s game but picked up a hamstring injury along the way. He was able to finish out the game last week, but I am pretty cautious with soft tissue injuries like this personally.

At that point, if you want to take a TE from this game to play it’s Jonnu Smith all the way. He is a great value at only $3,400 and is coming off a TD grab last week. He has been super quiet as of late which is unsurprising with Tannehill throwing for less than 100 yards in each of his last two games. You have to expect an uptick in passing for this game and if you buy the shootout potential this makes Smith all the more intriguing. He doesn’t provide the monster ceiling that you get from Kittle or Kelce, but if he easily hit 3x his price point and has given a near 20-point ceiling before this season.

My Pick

I have tossed and turned with this pick and though the public money and Vegas have the Chiefs as pretty big favorites, the game feels much closer to me. The Chiefs have game-breaking offense with arguably the most explosive quarterback in the league on their side. They dominated this Titans team when it comes to total offense earlier in the season and haven’t lost a game since.

On the flip side, the Titans did come away with the win already once against this very same Chiefs team. They have beaten the Chiefs in each of their last four matchups which includes earlier this season, and a matchup in the 2018 Wild Card round. They have been the underdog in each of those games but still managed to come away with the win. It feels like Andy Reid just doesn’t quite know how to beat the Titans. The run that the Titans have gone on to get to this point is insanely impressive and they have been a strong road team all season. They have only allowed more than 20 points to an opponent on the road twice in 10 games this season and just held the highest-scoring team in football to 12 points last week. I’m buying in on another upset and with the Chief’s postseason past, I will bet it’s a dramatic one.

My Final Prediction: Titans win in OT 33-27

 

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