And It Begins

AFC Wild Card

(5) Tennessee Titans at (4) Kansas City Chiefs

Titans: At one point during the regular season, they seemed to be in control of the AFC South, then things started to spiral out of control when they hit their losing streak. They had such a simple scenario entering week 17 and that was simply to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and you’re in and here they are playing postseason football for the first time in nine years. I think people are writing off Marcus Mariota a little too soon and let’s not forget that he’s only in his third season in the league, so there’s definitely time for him to develop into a complete quarterback. We’ve heard of a sophomore slump which is a common thing throughout sports, but Mariota had a “junior slump”. He threw 15 interceptions and that was the second most behind DeShone Kizer and he also finished with a passer rating of 78.6 which ranked 30th in the league and that was one spot behind Cutler and Mitchell Tribusky. This is a team that wants to run the football and control the clock. DeMarco Murray was out for the season finale against Jacksonville, but Derrick Henry stepped in and handled business. We talk about their defense being extremely up and down, but they were really good at stopping teams on third down which is a huge positive because this year, they were ranked seventh allowing a third down on 36 percent of the opponent’s chances. They’ll kick off the playoffs on Saturday afternoon against a team playing with a resurgence in the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chiefs: It’s definitely been a roller coaster type of year for them. They were off to such a strong start winning their first five games of the season, then came a brutal stretch where they had one once during a stretch of six games and they sat at .500 with a lot of questions and uncertainty surrounding them. When they played the Raiders on December 10th, that was the game that saved their season because if they lost that, they would’ve fallen out of first place in the AFC West, but that win propelled them to finish the rest of the season on a four-game winning streak, they won the AFC West for the second straight year in a row and they finished with a record of 10-6. They have finally gotten back to what got them off to a strong start earlier in the year and that’s getting Kareem Hunt the football, Alex Smith hasn’t turned the football over and when each of his receivers are getting the ball (Kelce, Hill, Wilson and, Harris), that’s when they are at their best. Their defense has also improved over the last month of the season. They have turned the page and have played their best football when it matters the most. Their quest to the Super Bowl will begin at Arrowhead on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Titans to town.

Titans Player To Watch: Derrick Henry– The former Heisman trophy winner has looked to be more comfortable with this offense and he was the leading rusher for the Titans this year. I have a feeling that the Titans will try to establish him and exploit the Chiefs weakness on defense which is stopping the run.

Chiefs Player To Watch: Tyreek Hill– He is the Chiefs most dynamic player on the field because with Kelce commanding so much attention, he will see a lot of single man coverages and he takes advantage of them. What can’t this guy do on the field? He’s a vertical threat, he’s speedy with the ball in his hands, he’s great at the line of scrimmage off the release he can make anything happen with just one play.

Final Analysis: And here we go to open things up for Wild Card Weekend. These two teams are so similar to one another because they both play a physical brand of football. Can Mariota put the struggles behind him? That’s the first thing I’m looking to see because when he turns the ball over, one turnover turns into another and it just doesn’t stop. It will be key for the Titans to cut back on their penalties as they were penalized 115 times during the regular season. The Chiefs will need to contain Mariota and make him throw the ball from the pocket, something he’s struggled to do consistently through his career so far.

Prediction: Chiefs 27 Titans 17