Tuesday morning on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, Kansas City Chiefs partisan Peter Schrager said that he believes the biggest factor in the AFC Championship game this Sunday against the Tennessee Titans won’t be quarterback Patrick Mahomes or tight end Travis Kelce — who both played superbly in Sunday’s 51-31 defeat of the Houston Texans in the Divisional round — but rather defensive tackle Chris Jones, who missed the game with a calf injury he sustained during last Thursday’s practice.
For Schrager, it’s all about stopping Titans running back Derrick Henry.
"The biggest @Chiefs X-Factor in this game won't be Mahomes or Kelce. It's @stonecoldjones_. They didn't necessarily need him for Houston's offense. But Tennessee? It'll be Derrick Henry 30 times up the gut. Chris Jones will be waiting and ready for the challenge."- @PSchrags pic.twitter.com/Ea6AtPpBJ3— GMFB (@gmfb) January 14, 2020
“I think the biggest X-factor for the Chiefs in this one — to make sure that Derrick Henry doesn’t just gallop and go [for] 180 [yards] — is Chris Jones,” Schrager said.
“And I’ll tell you: they didn’t need Chris Jones against the Houston Texans,” he continued. “That’s not what their offense is. The Houston Texans offense is Deshaun Watson outside the pocket — doing all this stuff — and getting to DeAndre Hopkins. Like, we knew Carlos Hyde wasn’t carrying the ball 30 times for 180 [yards]. Chris Jones was a non-factor either way last week; honestly, I don’t think they fall behind 24-0 — or not fall behind.
“But when you’ve got Derrick Henry coming right up the gut, Chris Jones is everything. They’re going to need him this week — and they’re going to need him for the Super Bowl. I almost think Chris Jones missing last week helps them this week, because you have a fresh Chris Jones who is now healed — and is ready to swallow Derrick Henry.“
Whether Jones — as Schrager says — will be a key in stopping Henry is open to question. When the Chiefs lost to the Titans in Week 10, Henry ran for 188 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts. Jones was in his second week after returning from an injury, and played a ominal number of snaps. In the 2017 Chiefs-Titans playoff game, Henry gained 156 yards (and scored a touchdown) on 23 carries. Jones played in that game, but was a defensive end in Bob Sutton’s 3-4 scheme; he was primarily a pass rusher.
So it’s hard to say whether Jones will have that much effect on Henry.
It’s also unknown if Jones will play on Sunday. Listed as questionable for last Sunday’s game, Jones was said to be a gametime decision for the Chiefs. Judging from video of Jones on the field before the game — courtesy of News Press Now’s Brandon Zenner — he didn’t look like he was all that ready to play.
Just the same, on Monday, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that Jones is “day-to-day” with the calf injury. With what we now know, it’s just impossible to predict if he will be ready to play on Sunday — and if he is, whether he will be able to “swallow Derrick Henry.”