The Tennessee Titans opened the AFC playoffs with an upset against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, then followed up last weekend in the division round with an even more shocking upset, defeating the team that had been favored to reach the Super Bowl this season, the Baltimore Ravens. Running back Derrick Henry dominated both of those games, rushing for an incredible 377 yards combined. Now, Henry will need to do it again for the Titans to book their own trip to the big game, when they take on the heavily favored Kansas City Chiefs.
As the highest remaining seed, the Chiefs will have home field advantage in the AFC Championship game — but the fact remains that, playing in Nashville nine weeks ago, the Titans defeated the Chiefs in their only meeting of this season, 35-32. Henry ran for 188 yards in that game. And, per Pro Football Reference, the 2016 second-round draft pick out of Alabama gained 156 when Tennessee defeated the Chiefs in the 2017 season’s AFC Wild Card game.
Obviously, whether Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can come up with some idea of how to contain Henry will be a major key to the Chiefs’ ability to deny Tennessee a third consecutive major playoff upset.
Pro Football Talk host Mike Florio assesses the Titans’ chances and previews the AFC title game in the video below.
Restricting the running game has been perhaps the most important factor for the Chiefs all season. According to ESPN.com stats, Kansas City went an undefeated 9-0 when holding opponents to 110, or fewer, yards rushing. But when their foes run for more than 110, the Chiefs are just 4-4.
Despite the earlier loss and the challenge of keeping Henry in check, the Chiefs — who finished the regular season at 12-4, and rolled past the Houston Texans 51-31 in the divisional round — enter the conference championship as 7 1/2-point favorites to return to the Super Bowl for the first time in a half-century, according to odds published by Newsweek. Kansas City has rolled up an 11-5-1 record against the spread so far this season, a 68.8 percentage that makes them the best in the NFL at covering the point spread.
The last time Kansas City played in the Super Bowl came on January 11, 1970 — Super Bowl 4 — when they defeated the Minnesota Vikings 23-7. The Chiefs also appeared in the first Super Bowl ever played, when they lost to the Green Bay Packers to decide the championship of the 1966 season.
The AFC Championship game kicks off at 2:05 CST at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri — that’s 3:05 EST, 12:05 PST — and will be broadcast nationally by CBS, with live online streaming via the network’s CBS All Access service.