Wild Card Game Preview: Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

By Ha Kung Wong  Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Twitter: @FBGarbageTime

Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Saturday, January 6, 2018 – 4:35 PM ET

Current Line – Chiefs by 8.5

NOTE: Ryan Whitfield and I also broke this game down in this weeks podcast, so give it a listen!

Titans Offense

Passing Rank (DVOA) – 20th

  • Passing Yards Per Game – 199.4 (23rd)

Rushing Rank (DVOA) – 8th

  • Rushing Yards Per Game – 114.6 (15th)

Points Per Game – 20.9 (19th)

The Titans need some consistency on offence.  Marcus Mariota has thrown more INTs (15) than TDs (13) and leads an offence that lacks in yards and points per game.  At the same time, Mariota has still been relatively good under pressure and making clutch throws.

Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews are the top two threats in the passing game, but both have been inconsistent.  Walker hasn’t been terrible, but has lacked upside, while Matthews has had more games with 50 yards or less (8) than more (6), and has only 3 total receptions in his last 2 games.  The Titans will need a lot more from their passing attack to be successful this weekend.

In addition, with DeMarco Murray sitting this one out with an MCL injury, the bulk of the backfield looks will rest on Derrick Henry.  Henry was facing the Jaguars in Week 17 in a similar situation, but only averaged a anemic 1.8 yards per carry over 28 attempts.  He’ll also need to do a lot better this weekend for the Titans to stay competitive.

Perhaps most critical, though, is that the Titans are 24th in turnover differential (-4). The Chiefs will certainly capitalize on any mistakes the Titans make, so sticking to a conservative game plan and ensuring ball security will be of paramount importance.

Titans Defense

Pass Defense Rank (DVOA) – 24th

  • Passing Yards Allowed Per Game – 239.3 (25th)

Run Defense Rank (DVOA) – 7th

  • Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 88.8 (4th)

Points Allowed Per Game – 22.3 (17th)

The Titans defense has been relatively up and down, but they’ve been particularly effective against opposing RBs.  That will really be put to the test with a newly reinvigorated Kareem Hunt, but pass defense may be even more important.  The Titans have had lapses in their secondary, and they’ll need to really make sure Tyreek Hill doesn’t get behind the coverage allowing any easy scores if they want to allow their offense to maintain a conservative game plan.

Chiefs Offense

Passing Rank (DVOA) – 8th

  • Passing Yards Per Game – 256.5 (7th)

Rushing Rank (DVOA) – 5th

  • Rushing Yards Per Game – 118.9 (9th)

Points Per Game – 25.9 (6th)

Kareem Hunt was hot, then not, then hot again.  His last 4 games have been spectacular, averaging over 5 yards per carry and getting a TD in each game.  He had a breakout year totaling 1,327 rush yards, the most of any RB in the NFL.

On top of that, Alex Smith has finally turned the corner, getting aggressive downfield and living up to his number one draft position from 12 years ago.  He finished the regular season ranked 7th among QBs per DVOA with 26 TDs to just 5 INTs and completing 67.7% of his passes.  A large part of this is Tyreek Hill and his home run ability, as well as Travis Kelce, one of the best TEs in the league.  Tennessee just doesn’t have a LB or S big and fast enough to cover Kelce, so if Smith is able to find him consistently, it’ll be tough to slow the Chiefs down.

Chiefs Defense

Pass Defense Rank (DVOA) – 23rd

  • Passing Yards Allowed Per Game – 247.0 (29th)

Run Defense Rank (DVOA) – 32nd

  • Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 118.1 (15th)

Points Allowed Per Game – 21.2 (15th)

Clearly, if the Chiefs have a weakness, it’s on defense.  I mentioned that Henry was relatively inefficient against the Jaguars in Week 17, but for one long catch and run TD, but he should find more room to run against the Chiefs pliable run defense.  Plus, although Mariota has fallen far short of expectations this season, he’ll have some opportunity against the Chiefs swiss cheese pass defense.  A lot will also depend on whether rookie Corey Davis can bounce back after being held catchless against the Jags in Week 17, and whether Eric Decker can continue his upward trend through the postseason.

Prediction:

The Chiefs and Titans actually match up pretty closely across the board, but Alex Smith has shown more consistency than Marcus Mariota this season, so I trust the Chiefs more.  Could Henry dominate the almost nonexistent Chiefs run defense, and could the Titans find a way to rewind Hunt to his mid-season slump?  Maybe, but I’m not counting on it, particularly at Arrowhead.

Chiefs Win, but take the Titans with the Spread

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