A spot in the Super Bowl is on the line in AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans. Kickoff is at 3:05 EST on Sunday, January 19 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The game will be broadcast on CBS.
Current betting odds list the Chiefs as 7.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 52 points. Click here to check out the most up to date Super Bowl 54 odds.
A month ago, few people could have foreseen the Titans being in the AFC Championship Game. They lost in Weeks 15 and 16 to drop to 8-7, reaching the playoffs in part because the Texans rested their starters in Week 17, giving Tennessee a relatively easy win. That being said, nobody has reason to doubt the Titans after what they’ve accomplished the past two weeks. Winning road games against the Patriots and Ravens in back-to-back weeks is no small feat for any team. The Titans will now look to reach their first Super Bowl since the 1999 season when they came a yard short of forcing overtime against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV.
For the Chiefs, it’s far less surprising to see them back in the AFC Championship Game. Kansas City won six in a row to close out the regular season, earning them a first-round playoff bye. Of course, things got a little complicated last week after they fell behind Houston 24-0 early in the second quarter. But there was no panic in the Chiefs, who came storming back to take the lead at halftime and never looked back, ultimately winning 51-31. The Chiefs will not host the AFC Championship Game for the second year in a row as they try to earn a spot in a Super Bowl for the first time since beating the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
Of course, it’s worth noting that the Titans beat the Chiefs in Nashville back in Week 10. The Chiefs dominated that game statistically, but a defensive touchdown and 68-yard touchdown run from Derrick Henry helped the Titans hang around. Tennessee ended up scoring two touchdowns in the final six and a half minutes to overcome a 29-20 fourth-quarter deficit to win 35-32. A little more than two months later, the Chiefs hope to turn the tables with the Titans having to visit a cold and raucous Arrowhead Stadium.
Based on how the Titans have won the past two weeks and the line set at half a point more than a touchdown, it seems obvious to take Tennessee against the spread. But I don’t think it’ll be that simple. Keep in mind that the Titans benefited from three Baltimore turnovers last week and were out-gained by 230 yards. Meanwhile, not even a 24-0 deficit could stop the Chiefs from winning in lopsided fashion. I think Kansas City will be equally convincing this week, winning by double digits and covering the spread.
Obviously, Henry is the biggest key to this game. He’s been next to unstoppable late in the season, taking 30 carries last week for 195 yards. Henry has been held under 100 yards just once in his last eight games, including 188 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs in Week 10. He’s set up to have another impressive outing this weekend.
However, it’s not out of the question for the Kansas City defense to keep Henry somewhat in check. The Chiefs faced a good rushing team last week and limited to the Texans to 94 rushing yards, and that was with the benefit of a mobile quarterback. Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is much better against the run than earlier in the season. If they can slow down Henry a little, I’m not sure Ryan Tannehill will be enough to carry the Titans the rest of the way. Tannehill has completed just 15 of his 29 passes over the last two games for a total of 160 yards.
The other side of the coin is that Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense are capable of pushing the envelope and turning this game into a shootout. After a sluggish start last week, Mahomes was at his best, throwing for over 300 yards and five touchdowns. The Chiefs had the ball for just over 25 minutes and still managed to score 51 points. Once the K.C. offense gets rolling, it’s like standing in front of a freight train.
It’s not like the Tennessee defense had much success stopping the Chiefs back in Week 10. Mahomes had nearly 450 yards passing and three touchdowns in that game. Both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce had big games while five different Chiefs caught at least four passes. The Titans may have limited the Ravens to just 12 points last week, but they also conceded over 500 yards of offense. Obviously, Mahomes won’t run as much as Lamar Jackson, but he’s still mobile and dangerous on the run. The Chiefs also have better talent at receiver than the Titans have faced the last two weeks.
In the end, I think the Kansas City offense will get rolling and run away with the game. Henry will be a handful for the Chiefs to stop. But the Tennessee offense may not have much margin for error. The Titans will have to control the clock and get points on every drive. On the road in a hostile environment, there are too many things that can go wrong. If the Titans are forced to take the ball out of Henry’s hands, the game will be all but over. I’ll take the Chiefs to cover the 7.5-point spread.