By Dayna O’Gorman // @DaynaOG
On Sunday, the 6th seed Tennessee Titans will head to Kansas City to take on the 2nd seed Chiefs for the AFC Championship Game, with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake.
During the season, there were many who imagined the high powered Chiefs making it to this stage, but I don’t remember anyone mentioning the Titans taking a trip to Miami in February.
I’m going to be honest. I think most people outside of the two teams’ fandoms will be thrilled to see either team win. Not just because it will be two young, fun teams playing, but also because it is the first time in a LONG time that the words New England Patriots haven’t been mentioned in an AFC Championship preview.
Oh, wait… I just mentioned them. Sorry.
The Patriots won’t play in the AFC Championship Game for the first time since the 2010 season pic.twitter.com/tzoY9sFdw7
— LB (@LB_XFL) January 14, 2020
The Titans are the first 6th seed to make it to the Championship game since both the New York Jets and the Green Bay Packers did it in 2010. They made it through the playoffs by becoming Kingslayers, knocking off both the New England Patriots and the number 1 seed Baltimore Ravens. The entire team, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill and running back Derrick Henry, has been a fantastic surprise in this postseason.
The postseason chatter about the Chiefs, on the other hand, hasn’t stopped since they lost last year’s AFC Championship in overtime to the Patriots. Superstar QB, and last year’s league MVP, Patrick Mahomes has been on fire after a brief scare with an injury in the middle of the season. AND, the Kansas City defense is finally living up to what many thought they would be at the beginning of the year.
The keys to this game are simple for both teams. The defenses for both the teams need to stop the other team’s greatest offensive weapons, Mahomes and Henry. This will obviously be a hard task as both have been playing at the top of their games.
The Ravens failed to slow down Derrick Henry despite stacking the box (8+ defenders) on 63% of Henry’s rush attempts (Henry Avg: 37%).@KingHenry_2 finished with 124 yards (19 attempts) vs 8+ defenders in the box, most in a game by any player this season.#TENvsBAL | #Titans pic.twitter.com/LZJUtR73cY
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 12, 2020
With Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones practicing today, and although he is listed as questionable, I’m going to assume he will play. It is too important of a game to sit him if he can go. He will be a huge key for the Chiefs. However, if he is injured and not at 100%, this will give Henry an even bigger opportunity to slice up the Chief’s defense.
As for the Kansas City offense, the Titans defense will have their biggest test against Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce. While the Tennessee secondary has improved in the postseason, they will have to play their best game of the year to even try to slow down the Chiefs.
We have to remember, the Titans have already beaten the Chiefs this season, back on November 10th. In fact, the Chiefs haven’t beaten Tennessee since 2013. But these aren’t the same teams they were back in November. Kansas City will be frigid cold on Sunday, and the fans will be loud. Both these teams have breathed new life into the AFC and it should be a fantastic game.
While I think the Green Bay Packers vs the San Fransico 49ers will be a good game, this game is the game to watch on Conference Championship weekend.
Follow Dayna on Twitter // @DaynaOG