Mahomes’s health gives the Chiefs a bigger advantage than they had last time around. While Tennessee won that game, Kansas City was in command most of the way—it succumbed only after all of its penalties, special teams gaffes, and costly turnovers added up. The Chiefs will be hard to beat if they don’t beat themselves.
“You take an offense like that, you’ve got a good shot at winning anything,” Kansas City linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “You’ve got the type of quarterback, the gunslinger we’ve got, I’ll go to war with that cat and those guys every day of the week.”
Henry has amassed 729 of his 1,917 regular-season and playoff rushing yards when eight or more defenders have been in the box, per Next Gen Stats. This is the most yards earned against stacked boxes in the NFL by 400 yards (Sony Michel ranks second in the regular season and postseason with 329). It follows that Henry’s 135 rushing attempts against stacked boxes is the most in the NFL by 45 (again, Michel ranks second, with 90). Henry has 13 rushing touchdowns against defenses keying on him, five more than then next closest (Dalvin Cook with eight). Henry averages 5.4 yards per attempt vs. stacked boxes, third most in the NFL (behind San Francisco’s Raheem Mostert with 6.2 and Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson with 5.9)
In the time since then, the Chiefs have been blowing out teams left and right. They’ve won seven in a row by a combined score of 218-100. But the Titans are red hot too. Tennessee came out on top in seven of its last nine games, even though it’s had a gauntlet of tough opponents. Its last five games were against opponents that finished the regular season with double-digit wins.
Most of our crew believes the Chiefs will be the end of the Titans’ Cinderella story and avenge their Week 10 loss. It’d mean Kansas City’s first Super Bowl appearance since way back in 1970. And the panel feels even more confident about which team the Chiefs will play.
The Tennessee defense will be challenged in a big way by Mahomes and his fleet of speedy receivers, add in tight end Travis Kelce and it’s an even bigger challenge. I just can’t see the Titans slowing Mahomes, who is now healthy. If the game starts getting away from the Titans, it will hurt them in terms of getting Henry going. That’s exactly what I think will happen. The Titans won’t keep up. The Chiefs, behind another big day from Mahomes, will go to their first Super Bowl in 50 years.
Pick: Chiefs 30, Titans 20
“I feel like nobody in the NFL can guard any of us, and that’s no disrespect to nobody,” receiver Tyreek Hill said Wednesday. “That’s just the confidence that I got in myself and the wideouts I’ve got around me, including the tight ends and the running backs. I feel like no DB unit, no secondary unit, no linebacker, any defense can guard any of us. So man-to-man is just easy for us to beat. If you just allow us to run through zones, it’s even easier.”
2. Chris Jones
There isn’t a more disruptive interior lineman this side of Aaron Donald.
Justin Jefferson WR
The Chiefs skill-position stars are getting a little older, so Kansas City reloads with Jefferson, one of the best big slot receivers in the class.
Quarterbacks — Start ‘Em
Patrick Mahomes vs. Tennessee Titans (Sunday, 3:05pm ET): You’re going to have to spend to get Mahomes obviously, but he will be worth it ... much like he was a week ago. His matchup is the best among quarterbacks, as the Titans had allowed the sixth-most points to the position in the last four weeks of the regular season. Mahomes also beat them for almost 30 fantasy points in a Week 10 contest.
Around the NFL
Center Jason Kelce
Word got out that Kelce, 32, was pondering retirement last offseason following a grueling, injury-filled year. He returned to have an All-Pro campaign in 2019, but questions about his future understandably came up as the season was winding down. “I mentioned it last year. This is something that goes through your head and has been for three or four years, so I don’t want to say this offseason was any different at all [than the previous ones],” Kelce said. “The bottom line is I’m a Philadelphia Eagle. I’m playing until I’m not, and the only reason this ever got mentioned is because the media found out and leaked it.” — Tim McManus
Garrett could bring needed experience to first-time head coach Joe Judge’s staff in New York. The bigger questions would involve the type offense he’d employ and his plans to develop young QB Daniel Jones. Garrett last called plays for the Cowboys in 2012 before handing off the reins to Bill Callahan, then Scott Linehan, and finally Kellen Moore in 2019.
“Things have a way of working out,” Garoppolo said Wednesday. “I always told myself it was a blessing in disguise, the ACL.
”We got (Nick) Bosa out of it. That’s a pretty good trade-off, I guess. But yeah, things have a way of working out I guess. This ride is crazy.”
In case you missed it at Arrowhead Pride
Mathieu jumped two routes that should have been interceptions, was involved in several big stops and made the phenomenal play above. Reading the route distribution from trips, Mathieu seamlessly passed the vertical route to the deep safety while breaking to the middle of the field. A route combination designed to put DeAndre Hopkins open for a chunk play on a crucial down is sniffed out immediately and broken up due to Mathieu’s exceptional football IQ.
Mathieu has spent several weeks now reminding the opposition that he is “too smart” after every play he makes. That mentality and preparation has definitely rubbed off on his teammates. Daniel Sorensen — who played a phenomenal game against Houston — has even taken up the gesture after making plays. This team has embraced Mathieu and everything he brings to the table, and that’s making them a better squad.
But nothing stuck out to me more than the brilliant, resilient performance by Patrick Mahomes. This game was perfect for Mahomes. From a stats level, it was other-worldly: he had the third-best game of his career by EPA per drop back (the first was the Steelers game in 2018, the second was against Jacksonville in Week 1 this season). It’s also the fifth-best performance by a quarterback in the postseason since 2009, where our dataset begins. And, that doesn’t take into account his four drops - without those, his EPA would have undoubtedly been higher than any game in his career.
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