Wild Card Round Tale Of The Tape: Tennessee Titans At Kansas City Chiefs
- QuarterbackThe Titans came through with a big game in their regular-season finale to earn a playoff spot, but they struggled quite a bit in losing their three previous games. Marcus Mariota is a brilliant athlete, but he struggled this year with 13 TD passes and 15 interceptions. However, don’t underestimate him because he could turn it on in the postseason.The Chiefs may be the most inconsistent team playing postseason football. They won their first five games, lost six of their next seven before closing the season with four straight wins. Alex Smith is a smart quarterback with fine athleticism, but is he really the quarterback to take his team the distance? Smith has a 26-5 TD-interception ratio and wants to answer the previous question in emphatic fashion.
- OffenseThe Titans have a pair of running backs in Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray who can put doubt in an opposing defense. Henry is the healthier runner at this point since Murray did not play against Jacksonville because of a knee injury. Tight end Delanie Walker is Mariota’s favorite receiver, which Rishard Matthews is a potential big playmaker.The Chiefs can be quite explosive with wideout Tyreek Hill and rookie running back Kareem Hunt. Hill may be the fastest player in the league, while Hunt (ankle) can run with power until he gets to the second level and then turn on the Jets. Tight end Travis Kelce is one of the two or three best at his position and can come through when the game is on the line.
- DefenseThe Titans will try to attack the Chiefs with their own speed, quickness and aggressiveness. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is one of the most productive all-around defensive players in the league, and he has 124 tackles and 5.0 sacks. Outside linebacker Derrick Morgan leads the team with 7.5 sacks, while free safety Kevin Byard had eight interceptions and 24 passes defensed in the regular season.The Chiefs are a big-play defensive team, and if they are going to be successful against the Titans, they are going to have to force turnovers. The Chiefs lack overall speed on defense, and a speedy team like the Titans should be able to take advantage of that liability. Volatile Marcus Peters had five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries this year.
- Special TeamsThe Panthers have had a fine year on special teams, but that may not be good enough against the Chiefs. Rookie return specialist Adoree Jackson has yet to break a long return, but he has the skill and ability to do so. Ryan Succop made 35-of-42 FG attempts.Hill gives the Chiefs the ability to turn any punt return into a big play. He can make one cut to get by the first wave of tacklers and then run past the rest of the coverage team. Placekicker Harrison Butker has taken advantage of his opportunity by making 38-of-42 FG attempts.
While the Chiefs have most of the key edges and home field, the Titans have an edge in quickness and athleticism and they could steal this game.