Tennessee visits Kansas City on Wild Card Weekend for the first of four National Football League playoff events. Kickoff is slated for 4:35 p.m. ET at Arrowhead Stadium. NFL Wild Card Weekend Free Pick: Chiefs -9 over Titans.
Postseason experience makes a difference when examining history. It is rare that franchises that haven’t been to the playoffs in a half-decade or longer find success. The back-to-back AFC West champion Chiefs have won four straight and hold a distinct advantage in this AFC postseason affair. The Titans are back in the playoff bracket for the first time in nine seasons, since 2008.
Pay heed to Andy Reid and his Chiefs this weekend playing the first of four Wild Card contests at Arrowhead Stadium. While Kansas City hasn’t won a postseason event at home in 24 years this is a team that won’t panic and will embrace Saturday afternoon’s contest.
Furthermore, pay attention to the fact that Tennessee isn’t good enough offensively to keep pace with the speed of the Chiefs. Tennessee, which ended an eight-season playoff drought by grinding out a 15-10 victory over Jacksonville this past Sunday, won for the first time since December 3. And the victory came at home, in Nashville.
An injured Titans offense hit the road at the loudest stadium in the league, a situation in which they have lost and failed to cover five of the last seven games. The two wins as visitors came against a winless Cleveland Browns troupe and an Indianapolis Colts club that closed the season with a 4-12 mark.
The Reid-led Chiefs come into the contest healthy, as a whole, and was able to rest his key starters in the Week #17 over the Broncos in Denver. Only wide receiver Albert Wilson is questionable for Saturday’s game. However his return to practice speaks well to his ability to play against the Titans on Saturday. Wilson missed practice on Tuesday with a sore hamstring but returned in limited fashion to the practice field on Wednesday and is expected to be active. Wilson is second among Kansas City’s wide receivers in catches (42) and yards (554). Note: Wilson was involved in only 28 snaps last week against the Broncos but was targeted eleven times in the 28 plays catching 10 passes for 147 yards.
The Titans ruled out leading rusher DeMarco Murray for Saturday’s wild-card game in Kansas City. The veteran running back suffered a torn MCL in his right knee. It’ll be the Derrick Henry will receive the majority of the touches on Saturday afternoon at Arrowhead. Henry was the featured back in the must win against Jacksonville last Sunday. But was everything but effective. Henry carried the ball 28 times for just 51 yards.
The Chiefs’ defense is significantly better when playing at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City held opponents to 16.8 points a game at home this year. Offensively coach Reid turned the play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy in the final four games of the regular season and the Chiefs won all four games. Tailback Kareem Hunt scored five touchdowns in the team’s final four games. Quarterback Alex Smith complied the highest quarterback rating in the NFL this season.
The Titans don’t have a game-breaker at wide receiver and will be without a part of their running back tandem. Quarterback Marcus Mariota (hamstring) threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13) this season and isn’t 100 percent.
The special teams edge goes to hybrid Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs. And without their complete stable of running backs it is unlikely that Tennessee will be able to take advantage of the pedestrian Kansas City rush defense.
The Titans surrendered 27 touchdown passes this season and believing that Mike Mularkey and his staff can improve the team’s position with more creative schemes offensively is wishful thinking.
Any success or failures that the Titans experience on Saturday rest with running back Derrick Henry. Save their home win against the Jags in a game in which Jacksonville didn’t have to win the Titans didn’t defeat a playoff team all season.
The Chiefs excelled this season against teams just like Tennessee. While it is a cliché’ that the team that wins the turnover battle typically wins the game it couldn’t be more true with both of these AFC franchises. Kansas City was 9-1 this season when they were recorded a positive turnover differential. Reid’s crew was a porous 1-5 when they didn’t.
Kansas City won six of seven games this season against teams that finished in the bottom 33 percent of the league in turnover-margin. The Titans are one of those bottom-10 teams. Mariota and Tennessee’s offense were among the league leaders in interceptions. And Kansas City closed the season out with four teams with offensive schemes similar to that of the Titans, average at best, winning all four. Most relevant the Chiefs defensive got healthy in December. Over the final month of the regular season, versus the Raiders, Chargers, Dolphins and Broncos the defense didn’t give up over 350 total yards and forced 12 turnovers.
Tennessee was 3-5 overall on the road this season and averaged just under 18 points per game as a visitor.
NFL Wild Card Weekend Free Pick: Chiefs -9 over Titans
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