Since Week 16, Wagerbop is sizzling on NFL picks. 10-6. That’s 62.5%.
I’m sad the season is nearly over. The Shield has been a good little money maker for me in the second half. We have just 3 more shots to squeeze a little more cash out of Roger Goodell’s sandbox before we shift focus full-time to basketball.
I’ll be covering the AFC Championship game – Titans at Chiefs. For Wagerbop’s Packers-Niners pick, click here.
The Titans met the Chiefs in Week 10 in Nashville. Tennessee emerged victorious 35-32 in a wild back-n-forth affair. KC was 5.5-point favorites in this contest and lost by 3. The Chiefs are even larger favorites this time around – currently -7.5 on Bovada.
The line opened at KC -10. Everyone is so high on the Titans, and it isn’t hard to see why. Tennessee has beaten everyone’s Super Bowl picks – New England and Baltimore. Derrick Henry is currently the best player in football. Tennessee was never down 24-0.
In baseball, they say momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher. In football, I guess you could say momentum is only as good as your next matchup. Some think Vegas totally missed the water with their large spread. Usually, it isn’t Vegas who is dead wrong. It’s your average Joe sports fan.
Tennessee matched up well with New England and then caught Baltimore at a bad time. Different story this week. KC is hot and the Titans look overmatched on paper. Let’s talk about it.
Breaking Down the Week 10 Tape
35-32. That proves the Titans are 3 points better than Kansas City, right? The big spread is a mistake? … If only it was that easy.
Tennessee won the game, but it wasn’t like they dominated KC. A scoop-n-score by Rashaan Evans and 2 field goal miscues on the Chiefs’ end allowed the Titans to squeak by on a narrow margin.
The scoop-n-score is a fluke thing. Those are 50/50. One week you might win a bet because of them and the next week they cause you to lose. While we can’t rule out the possibility of Tennessee scoring another defensive touchdown – there is a 50/50 chance the Chiefs will benefit from a major break.
Both teams played great games in Week 10 and Tennessee won by 3. If the ball bounces the other way and KC gets a free 7, the Chiefs win by 4. Make at least one of those awful FG attempts and the Chiefs win by 7. Boom, they’re right there.
Tennessee played a ton of soft coverage early on against Mahomes and the Chiefs. Not letting us throw deep? No problem, said Andy Reid and the KC offense. Tyreek Hill ran drags and hooks all day, picking up monster YAC and ending the game with season-highs in receptions and yardage – 11 catches for 157.
Tennessee occasionally threw in some press man coverage and had success with it. The two biggest spots they chose to matchup were a 3rd-and-2 right after their scoop-n-score and a must-stop 3rd-and-8 late in the 4th quarter. Each time, the Titans perfectly defended Mahomes’ pass and forced an incompletion.
Titans HC Mike Vrabel may decide to play more man coverage this time around since it worked in Round 1. Tyreek Hill totaled 157 yards against soft zones. He might get 757 receiving yards if Tennessee tries to match up.
Sprinkling in some man coverage in 3rd-down situations is one thing. Relying on it as your base coverage is completely different. Hopefully Vrabel is smart enough to take it easy on the man usage. I’d expect lots and lots of zone, just like Week 10.
I can guarantee Andy Reid has cooked up some creative man-beaters for 3rd-down situations in case Tennessee sends a man blitz. I wouldn’t count on the Titans stopping KC on 3rd down too often.
The Titans were harassing Mahomes early and often in Week 10, but his bum knee almost certainly impaired his elusiveness. The Chiefs’ QB missed some time with a dislocated knee prior to the Tennessee game. He was not 100%.
Mahomes is now healthy. His recent numbers are off the charts. He helped his team put up 51 in the Divisional Round. How many times have the Chiefs lost since their Week 10 beating in Tennessee? Zero.
Forcing Mahomes out of the pocket worked in Round 1. It may prove detrimental this weekend. Now that he can run, Mahomes becomes equally dangerous inside the pocket as out. This is an aspect of the Chiefs’ offense Tennessee did not have to defend in Week 10.
Derrick Henry’s Usage
The 2 big questions for this game are A) will Vrabel continue to pound the rock with Derrick Henry like he should? and B) can the Chiefs stop him this time?
Henry exploded in Week 10 for 188 rushing yards and 2 TDs – both season-highs at the time. This was the birth of the new Titans’ offense. The one that just hands it to Henry every play. Before Week 10, Henry had hit the 100-yard mark once. Now he’s flirting with 200 every game.
The law of averages says Henry cannot sustain his current pace. In his last 3 games (Week 17, WC, Div), Henry has averaged 32 carries and 196 rushing yards per game. That’s over 6 YPC.
People slammed the Ravens’ offense as one-dimensional, but the Titans’ offense is the epitome of a one-dimensional unit. Ryan Tannehill threw 15 times in New England and just 14 in Baltimore. This is now Derrick Henry’s offense … unless Vrabel chooses to spread the touches around.
There are 3 things that could happen regarding Henry’s usage and performance in the AFC Championship game.
- Henry gets 30+ touches for a 4th-straight game and racks up 200 yards on the ground.
- The Chiefs put together a masterful defensive game plan and limit Henry.
- Vrabel tries to catch KC selling out for the run and calls more passing plays. Henry’s production suffers.
Of these 3 scenarios, 2 would benefit Kansas City. Which is most likely to play out on Sunday? I don’t know. I do give a slight advantage to KC just because #2 and #3 are well within the realm of possibility, Just as I hope Vrabel is smart enough to limit his man defense usage, I hope he is smart enough to continue feeding the beast.
We all assume one team will eventually stop Derrick Henry, but there are only 2 chances left. If Henry goes off for 200 yards on 6 YPC against the Chiefs, Tennessee will win. Either containing Henry or getting Vrabel to stop handing him the ball will be paramount.
Experts are stressing the importance of long drives by Tennessee to keep Patrick Mahomes on the bench where he can’t hurt them. The Chiefs should have the same philosophy toward Henry. Long drives by KC will earn their front-7 some extra rest – rest that is going to be needed if Henry is to be slowed.
Long drives won’t be enough, though. Kansas City needs to build an early lead if they truly want to limit Henry’s production. The Titans aren’t built to compete in a shootout. They cannot fall behind. If the Chiefs force Tannehill to start airing it out, game over.
The Chiefs are more than capable of winning a shootout, as we’ve seen multiple times this season. KC wouldn’t want to, but they can afford to fall behind. They’d be just fine. Another advantage for Kansas City.
Here is where the Chiefs’ myriad of weapons will grant them the largest advantage. KC is wanting to sustain long drives. The Titans cannot fall behind so they need to play soft coverage. Seems like the perfect match, huh?
Tennessee desperately wants to speed the Chiefs up, but they can’t afford to do that with their outmatched secondary and linebackers. Sending blitzes and playing hard man sounds good in theory, but Mahomes can scramble now – he has two good knees.
Also, pressing Tyreek is suicide. He will score a deep TD over the top. By the way Titans, Mecole Hardman runs a 4.33. Don’t forget about him.
Expect Tennessee to pound the rock with Henry when they possess the ball. Expect the Chiefs to throw lots of short passes and chew more clock than normal.
It might sound like I’m working toward a conclusion of bet the under, but I’m not! Here is how I see the game playing out:
Each team scores once or twice on early, scripted drives. It’s something like 14-10 or 10-7. At some point in the 2nd quarter, there is a crucial third down for Tennessee. Chiefs get the stop. Later, a crucial third down for Kansas City. Mahomes makes something out of nothing and the Chiefs convert. KC scores before half-time and takes a 1 or 2-score lead into the break.
In the second half, Tennessee can’t ever seem to get the big stop. The Chiefs are maintaining their 7 or 10-point lead. At some point, Vrabel decides he needs to start airing it out. The pace picks up. Each defense begins taking more risks. The field is wide open.
So long as the Chiefs are winning by more than one score, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 3 or 4 touchdowns in the 4th quarter. For this reason, I am not loving the under.
You know what bet I do love? Chiefs -7.5 (EVEN). Don’t flock to the Titans just because “they’re hot”. KC is just as hot, if not hotter.
See you on top!