Last Sunday, the team’s stunning Divisional round comeback to win 51-31 caught the league’s attention. Now the Kansas City Chiefs are back in the AFC championship against the Tennessee Titans — this time at Arrowhead Stadium.
Let’s see which Chiefs players are tending up (or down) as they enter the game that could send them to Super Bowl LIV.
This week’s Bulls:
Daniel Sorensen: This week, Dirty Dan has been the talk of the town: the unlikely hero who helped spark the comeback against the Houston Texans. Sorensen came up big on two special teams plays that set up the offense for quick touchdowns. Championship teams are built around their superstars — but it takes role players like Sorensen to push them over the top. A sound tackler, he could be a special teams factor in the conference title game — and will likely be used as an extra safety in the box against Derrick Henry.
Damien Williams: The Chiefs now have a running back committee of one. Playoff Williams is apparently the best Williams; he now has seven touchdowns in three career postseason games. The development of Darwin Thompson — and the rest given to LeSean McCoy — have become non-stories; Williams is taking over. His speed and receiving ability were the missing link the offense needed to return to its 2018 form.
Stefen Wisniewski: Along with Williams’ re-emergence — and the improved mobility of Patrick Mahomes — there’s another factor that has led to the offense’s surge. The offensive line has shown notable improvement across the board. It seems to correlate to when Wisniewski took over for Andrew Wylie. Now that the team has found the right combination, it makes sense to stick with it.
This week’s Bears:
Charvarius Ward: One of this year’s breakout defensive players struggled a bit in the Divisional round. Without rookie standout Juan Thornhill covering up mistakes at deep safety, Chiefs corners risk exposure. Hopefully, the team makes some adjustments to face a Titans team with A.J. Brown — another promising rookie receiver — and the league’s most improved player at quarterback.
Chris Jones: Jones is reportedly doing everything he can to return to the field, but his status for the Sunday’s game is very much in question. But the more often the team is forced to play without their best interior pass rusher, the more they find other ways to win on defense. Jones’s lack of availability might be hurting his prospects for a new contract with the Chiefs.
Demarcus Robinson: The last game in which Robinson had more than two catches was against the Titans — but thanks to his hustle and blocking ability, he’s still an important role player. Still, with multiple drive-killing drops, Robinson was a very visible part of the early meltdown against the Texans. Will he get a chance to redeem himself?
Three predictions for Sunday:
1) The defense will do enough against Derrick Henry. It’s not about completely shutting him down. Instead, it’s about a healthier and more confident Chiefs defense limiting his yards after contact and closing off running lanes. Henry will probably get 100 yards — but the Titans can’t beat the Chiefs unless he breaks off multiple long touchdowns. Some of the biggest Bulls of the season have been Mike Pennel, Khalen Saunders and Derrick Nnadi. With those guys playing well — and Xavier Williams rotating in — the Chiefs can now line up a big defensive front that can do enough against Henry to get off the field and give the ball back to Mahomes.
2) If you thought Patrick Mahomes was great last week... There’s been plenty of talk about the divisional round being an over-my-dead-body game for the Chiefs quarterback. That victory — and everything else he’s been through this season — has built up to this moment. Mahomes knows it’s the opportunity to avenge an earlier season loss against the Titans — and accomplish what they should have been able to do last season. In last Sunday’s comeback win, Mahomes rallied the team and played brilliantly. A week later, he won’t have to rally. Expect the Chiefs to be more competitive early in the game — and for the offense to keep its foot on the gas.
3) It’s all about the Championship Swagger. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo might not know what it is, but swagger makes all the difference. It’s why the Chiefs acquired two of their elite-level players in the offseason: Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu. It’s part of what makes Mahomes so great. It’s arguably what was missing from previous Chiefs teams that lost in heartbreaking ways. This team has that it factor — the trash-talking confidence and belief in one another that helps them persevere when things get tough. When the team was down last week, they trusted in Mahomes, kept their defensive swagger and got on a roll. This week, that swagger will punch their ticket to the Super Bowl. Chiefs 45, Titans 28
If you want a complete look behind the curtain, here’s a link to the full Market Movers database.