Tennessee on Saturday will be playing in its first playoff game in nine years. Kansas City hopes its experience under coach Andy Reid will be on its side as it tries to win its first home playoff game in 24 years.
The Titans (9-7) were cold before Week 17, needing to hold off the Jaguars to end a three-game losing skid in order to take the top AFC wild-card berth. The Chiefs (10-6) are riding a four-game winning streak that has them back on track after dropping four straight games to begin the second half of the season.
Both offenses are run-oriented and operated by mobile passers in Marcus Mariota and Alex Smith, whose respective tight ends, Delanie Walker and Travis Kelce, are their most reliable receivers.
The Titans might need to keep riding second-year stud Derrick Henry in the backfield with DeMarco Murray hurting, while the Chiefs will lean heavily on rookie NFL rushing champion Kareem Hunt.
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Defensively, both teams operate a base 3-4, and each have had trouble major troubles in pass coverage on the back end.
Which team does the matchup favor most? Here are SN’s picks and predictions for the game.
Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs (-7 1/2) picks, predictions
Saturday 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Vinnie Iyer: This game comes down to which team will be more aggressive in going after big plays in the passing game … and executing them. The Titans have a strong run defense under coordinator Dick LeBeau and will focus on containing Hunt. But even with a good pass rush, they can be exploited downfield, both inside and outside.
The Chiefs have gone back to the attack mode with Smith that made them so successful early in the season with great play-calling by offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. The Titans have no answers for the speed of Tyreek Hill, as rookie Adoree’ Jackson is their healthiest and best defensive back.
Mariota is more limited with his wideout weaponry and hasn’t been as crisp as Smith. The Chiefs are also built to contain Walker.
Expect the Chiefs to jump out to a significant lead by the third quarter and force the Titans to go away from sticking to the run. Then the Chiefs will turn to Hunt in the fourth quarter to ensure they end their long Arrowhead postseason drought.
Chiefs 30, Titans 16
David Steele: The Chiefs are looking more like the Chiefs that started the season 5-0 — except, of course, for Eric Berry’s absence. The playoffs are when the flaws in the Kansas City defense can be lethal, where they can get exposed as they did by the likes of the Jets and Raiders. This won’t be one of those weeks, though … not by the Titans.
Credit the Tennessee defense for paving the way to the playoffs, especially in the finale over the Jaguars that broke their late three-game losing streak. Marcus Mariota regressed throughout the second half of the season, the two-headed rushing attack did not pick up where it left off last year, and DeMarco Murray’s status for this game (knee) is up in the air.
Smith, Hunt, Hill, Kelce … the Chiefs are not infallible, but they should have plenty in the tank to ride through this opponent and into the divisional round against the Steelers or Patriots.
Chiefs 33, Titans 19