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Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs

What a weekend. 

The Titans taking advantage of your mistakes train rolls on. The team you look at and think, “there’s no way they can beat the Ravens” shook Lamar Jackson with that first pick then shook the Ravens’ defense when Ryan Tannehill strafed them with a 40-yard touchdown pass.

The Titans let the Ravens get tons of yardage between the 20s, but they won the field position battle making sure that the Ravens started almost every drive deep in their own territory. They took advantage of two interceptions and two turnovers on downs and scored on short drives. There is nothing in Tennessee’s performance that you can knock. They took advantage of their opportunities and smothered the Ravens when they got anywhere near scoring position. It’s safe to say Vegas did pretty well on the Ravens -6 first half, -10 second half, and -10 for the game. Virtually everyone I know took a bath except for maybe one guy. 

Tennessee tends to suffocate teams.

Their defense isn’t elite, but it hits hard and is opportunistic. They are more of a bend but don’t break, so they rely on their special teams to help win the field position battle and force the opposition into long drives like they did against the Pats and Ravens. The Pats threw the ball a ton and it killed them because they were constantly playing from deep in their own end. Baltimore was able to vary up their offense, but because of the crappy starting field position they needed to run more plays which shrunk their margin for error. How often can you expect a team to complete drives over 70 yards? 

The Titans will also kill you with Derrick Henry. He’s averaging close to 200 YPG just in the playoffs and that’s against two of the best defenses in the AFC. How do you think he’s going to do against the Chiefs who gave up 4.9 YPC? If you stack eight in the box it doesn’t matter. Over the regular season and playoffs Henry accumulated 729 rushing yards with eight men in the box. That is insane. Including the playoffs, he’s run for 1,917. Combine him with Tannehill who is dangerous in play action and armed with some rangy receivers, it’s not inconceivable that the Titans could win outright. 

Bill O’Brien should be fired already, but as a friend put it, I’m sure his GM disagrees.

What a disaster. The Texans give up a 24-point lead in less than a quarter after O’Brien failed to recognize the exact moment he could have killed the Chiefs’ chances. Kicking a field goal instead of going for it on 4th and short from the Chiefs’ 13 is less egregious than a fake punt from your own 30, but both plays indicate that O’Brien is a bad tactician. Andy Reid, however, is one of the best in the business at making in-game adjustments. Over the remainder of the game the Chiefs rarely ran the ball and Pat Mahomes and Travis Kelce eviscerated Houston’s defense to turn a 24-point deficit into a 20-point victory. Also, keep in mind that KC had drives killed in the first quarter by four dropped passes. 

I think my favorite part of the day was career backup Scott Zolak tweeting that Kelce isn’t a real tight end before someone pointed out that Zolak was so bad during his career that he was removed from a game when his head coach saw on television from a hospital that he was playing and called the sidelines. The point is, don’t sleep on Kansas City’s ability to completely ruin your day when you think they’re down. 

I don’t think it’s unfair to focus more on how the Titans can win than on how the Chiefs can lose.

The Chiefs already lost to the Titans in Nashville 35-32. Mahomes had no turnovers and had three TD, but Henry lit up the Chiefs for 188 yards. Yes, the game ended on a really weird sequence where the Chiefs missed a field goal and the Titans hit a field goal, but that’s the sort of spots the Titans can put you in. Ones where unpredictable and bizarre things just happen and your tactical advantages and talent are beaten by the bounce of a football. I am not saying you should bet based on the odds of freak plays happening, I am just warning that they happen and the Titans rarely play in clean games. Just look at what’s happened with them since Tannehill took over. It’s incredibly hard to beat a team twice in a season, but the very nature of the Titans game plan forces your offense into bad field position. There is nothing easy about them. There is no doubt in my mind that the Chiefs will get theirs. They will score in bunches, but the Chiefs defense gives me zero confidence, especially against the run.

Vrabel isn’t the best at adjustments, but he sticks with what his team does well.

Plus, the Chiefs defense is bad enough to give Tannehill an opportunity to throw for more than 200 yards, much less 100. This is a really tough one to handicap because the eye test and the Chiefs 51-7 explosion is pushing this number up. I am a big fan of Andy Reid and I think he’s eliminated most of his clock management issues and Chiefs super bad luck fan Charles Penn is staying away from the game, so I feel much better about KC on the ML even at -340. 

A lot of people are leaning and liking the Chiefs in this spot.

They are motivated to get to their first Super Bowl since after the 1969 season and want to bury the heartbreak of last year. The Pats are dead, they are playing at home, Andy Reid is missing only a Super Bowl title from his Hall of Fame resume, and Mahomes is on fire. What’s not to like? Getting over the hump, that’s what. 

I keep going back forth on this one because there are scenarios where the Titans win: clock management, the Chiefs defense collapsing, Henry rushes for 200 and Tannehill throws for 250, and Vrabel’s guys are able to string together a couple clock killing scoring drives. I can also see the Chiefs putting 40 on the board and winning by 13. 

My Take: I have to recommend going with the conservative play and take the points. The Titans are so much better coached than the Texans and they can control the game on the ground. The Chiefs will most definitely get theirs, but Vrabel has a much better grasp of game management than BoB but is still behind Reid when it comes to adjustments. The Chiefs defense is … not good and barring an injury, Derrick Henry will eat up massive chunks of yardage and drive the analytics guys who have never watched a football game crazy. Mahomes will light up the board himself, but expect this one to come down to the wire. Who knows, I could flip to the Chiefs on Sunday morning, but laying more than a touchdown is dicey. 

THE PICK: Titans +7.5 


TEASER: Consider teasing the Titans up to 13.5 and the over to 59 

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