AFC Wildcard: Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
When: January 6, 2018 @ 3:35 p.m.
Where: Arrowhead Stadium
After a short hiatus, The Weekly Chop is back! All the relaxing I did over the Holidays really screwed up my blogging schedule. Anyways… let’s recap a few things we missed:
- The Chiefs finished the season at 10-6 and are the AFC WEST CHAMPS for the second consecutive year! This is the first time in franchise history that the team has won the division in back-to-back years.
- Rakeem Nunez-Roches has taken over Chris Jones’ starting sport on the defensive line and has been playing incredible. Chris Jones is still getting a lot of time as there is a constant rotations between Jones, Nunez-Roches, and Allen Bailey at defensive end.
- Kareem Hunt may very well win Offensive Rookie of the Year. After his one carry for 35 yards and a touchdown against Denver, Hunt won the rushing title leading all running backs with 1,327 yards. Hunt’s only competition for OROY will be Alvin Kamara from the Saints but in my very biased opinion Hunt should clearly take this award home.
- Since week 13, when Matt Nagy took over play calling duties, the Chiefs have been averaging 30 points per game. I will be fairly shocked if he is not a head coach somewhere next year. Probably Chicago.
- In week 17, Pat Mahomes became the first Chiefs rookie QB to win a game since Todd Blackledge in 1987. He made some throws that had me in complete awe of his arm talent but at other times he definitely looked raw.
Back to the wildcard game…. the Chiefs enter the Playoffs as the 4 seed and host the Tennessee Titans. Kansas City looks to win their first home playoff game since the 1993 season and Joe Montana. As it stands, the Chiefs are currently tied with the Indianapolis Colts for most playoff wins (2) at Arrowhead Stadium. Let me repeat that… tied with the Indianapolis Colts for most playoff wins (2) at Arrowhead Stadium. I don’t think it needs stated how important this game is for the franchise.
I normally give you my three things to watch for during the game but this week I wanted to give you my three keys to the Chiefs getting the “home playoff win” monkey off of their back:
1) Reggie Ragland/Rakeem Nunez-Roches
Honestly, I think the overall game plan for the Chiefs is very very simple… stop the Titans running game and they win. The Titans ran the ball 444 times this year while only throwing the ball 494 times. I know you might be thinking… “well they throw the ball more than they run” but in today’s NFL having that balanced of a ratio makes you a run heavy team. Regardless, I would argue that the two best players on the Titans roster are running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry.
Murray is out against the Chiefs as he tore his MCL two weeks ago, leaving only Henry in the Titans backfield. This creates a very fun match-up between former Alabama teammates Derrick Henry and Reggie Ragland. Ragland has been one the brightest spots on the Chiefs defense all year and he will need to play an overwhelming role in stopping Henry.
While linebackers normally get all the glory in shutting down a run game, Chiefs defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches could very well be the x-factor. He is questionable with an ankle injury but he has been phenomenal against the run all year long. Plus – he is so much fun to watch (quickly becoming one of my favorite players) and the energy he brings to the defense has been much needed. If Nunez-Roches plays on Saturday, keep an eye on #99 flying all over the field.
2) Establishing the deep ball
As far as the offense is concerned, the Chiefs really just need to do what they do. The Titans defense is nothing special.
But establishing the deep ball with Tyreek Hill is so important to this offense not just against the Titans but for the offense to click week in and week out. Truly, its not even about connecting with Ty on a deep ball (but of course that is always nice). After Hill gets behind the defense one or two times, the defense has to adjust and keep help over the top. This opens things up for Kelce in the middle and the running game for Kareem Hunt.
I would expect Alex Smith to thrive in the playoffs…
Alex Smith has 12 pass TD and 2 INT in 6 playoff games, the best postseason TD-INT ratio of any player in the Super Bowl Era (min. 200 pass attempts)
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 3, 2018
3) Arrowhead Stadium brings the noise
There has been a lot of talk around KC the last few days about the Chiefs still having 10,000 unsold tickets…. to a playoff game! That is nuts. I am not going to stress about this situation yet because I have full faith that the Sea of Red will show up and be as loud as usual! While the home field advantage of Arrowhead Stadium is always prevelant, I think it will be even more important against an inexperienced Titans’ roster with a young quarterback making his first playoff experience. It’s time to bring the noise Chiefs fans!
LETS GO CCCCCHHHHIIIEEEEFFFSSSSSSS!!!!!
Former Defensive End. Current Attorney. Sometimes NFL Contributor for The Dive 35.