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AFC Championship Game: Chiefs Heavy Home Favorites Over Titans

The Titans (+10) forced three turnovers and locked Baltimore down on fourth down in a 28-12 upset of the AFC’s No. 1 seed. With the win, Tennessee improved to 7-3 SU and 7-3 ATS on the road this season.

In one of the most entertaining games in NFL history, Kansas City (-10) rallied back from a 24-point deficit by scoring a touchdown on seven consecutive drives to beat the Texans 51-31. With their seventh straight ATS win, the Chiefs improved to 13-4 SU and 12-5 ATS.

Tennessee Titans vs Kansas City Chiefs

Opening Odds Analysis

The Chiefs opened as 10-point home favorites before a significant dip down to Kansas City -7.5. Tennessee’s moneyline opened at +270, while the point total opened at 50.5 before a jump to 52 by Monday morning. The total has gone OVER in nine of the Titans’ last 12 games (avg. 51.33) and in five of the Chiefs’ last seven home games (avg. 52.57).

As of Monday, 54 percent of public consensus picks backed Kansas City -7.5 and 60 percent backed the OVER 52.

Last meeting, Week 10: The Titans (+5.5) scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining to upset the Chiefs 35-32 and spoil Patrick Mahomes’ first game back after dislocating his knee a month prior.

In that game, Kansas City dominated time of possession 38-22 and converted 50 percent of its third and fourth downs. Although Tennessee’s defense bent, it didn’t completely break as it forced the Chiefs to settle for four field goals.

Derrick Henry rushed 23 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee News & Notes

It’s evident now that the Titans should not have been 10-point dogs at Baltimore. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on a few factors that aided in Tennessee’s upset win. These are not slights, nor shots fired at one of the hottest NFL teams of the moment, but rather a box score and game flow post-mortem that should keep oneself from overvaluing the Titans at Kansas City.

On the Ravens’ first drive, Baltimore hit three chunk plays before Lamar Jackson’s pass sailed a little too high for Mark Andrews. The ball was tipped, intercepted and returned before Jackson was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the tackle. Just like that, the Titans had the ball on the Ravens’ 35-yard line.

Now I can’t remember who said it, but during the broadcast it was noted that Andrews’ ankle injury may have (likely) hindered his ability to get a little more lift and catch that pass. This nuance led to the Titans’ first score.

On its next offensive drive, Baltimore failed to convert on fourth-and-short. The Ravens converted 60.7 percent of their fourth downs this season. The Titans took over on downs and on the very next play, Tannehill hit Kalif Raymond on a 45-yard touchdown strike. The Titans led 14-0.

If you remember the diner scene from Superman 2, Clark Kent gets tossed into the jukebox and the glass cuts him. He sees his own blood and is shaken. At this moment, the Ravens turned Clark Kent and never recovered.

One of the keys to the Ravens offense this season was Mark Ingram. The big back created balance in the rushing game and kept front sevens honest when he would make them choose between attacking him or containing Jackson. It was the Ravens’ version of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” but with Ingram hobbled by a calf injury – an injury that in any other week would have kept him out – Jackson was susceptible to Tennessee’s pressure and didn’t have that pick-your-poison luxury enjoyed the first 15 games of the season.

Whether those who backed the Titans +10 or moneyline want to admit it, all these factors mattered in Tennessee pulling off the upset. Kansas City is healthy, has an elite passing game and its pass rush is trending up.

Now for Derrick Henry. He’s carried the ball 96 times in his past three games, a span of four weeks. Although they improved down the stretch, the Chiefs allowed 126.2 rush yards per game and yielded 104 yards on 17 carries to Josh Jacobs in their last matchup against an elite lead back like Henry.

In other words, I’m not expecting Kansas City to slow Henry down, but at what point does this workload begin to take its toll on the running back? Perhaps we’re just not wired these days to watch a guy tote the rock 30-plus times per game and he’s actually going to be fine. For those riding Titans +7.5, you’d better hope that’s the case because this is one of those games where Tennessee must win time of possession, bleed the clock and keep the ball out of Mahomes’ hand.

The Titans turned three Ravens’ turnovers into 21 points. The Chiefs are one of only three teams to average fewer than one turnover per game.

On the injury front, linebacker Jayon Brown is questionable with a knee injury.

Kansas City News & Notes

The Chiefs scored 51 points despite losing time of possession 35-25. It doesn’t take long for them to strike.

Without their sack leader, Chris Jones*, who was inactive due to a calf injury, Kansas City still managed eight hits and five sacks of Deshaun Watson. The Chiefs have averaged 3.7 sacks of the opposing quarterback in their past three games. The Titans allow 3.2 sacks per game, but protection has improved in recent weeks and as Henry relieved Tannehill of the pass rush.

Tight end Travis Kelce’s 10 receptions for 134 yards and three touchdowns was his best performance of the season. Opposing tight ends averaged five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown per game against the Titans this season. This key matchup favors the Chiefs.

*Chris Jones is day to day with the calf injury.

Betting Pick: Kansas City -7.5

The key to this ATS win will be the Kansas City pass rush getting hits on Tannehill and Mahomes taking care of the ball. If the Chiefs win the sack and turnover battle, they win by 10-plus points.

Shark Bites
  • The Titans have won 5 straight road games by an average of 15.8 points.
  • The Chiefs have won 7 straight games by an average of 16.86 points.
  • The total has gone OVER in 9 of the Titans’ last 12 games.