The balance that exists between the Chiefs’ offense and defense will be the difference in Sunday’s AFC championship game in Kansas City.
The Tennessee Titans beat the Chiefs, 35-32, in week #10 of the 2019 season, but a lot has changed since that November 10th contest. It was the last game that the Chiefs lost as they reeled off six consecutive wins to finish as the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
From a fantasy football point-of-view (POV), a lot of credit goes to the Chiefs’ improving defense. After the loss to the Titans, Kansas City had a 6-4 record and their defense was surrendering almost 24 points per game. In the last six games of the season, they gave up an average of 11.5 points per game and jumped to No. 11 in total defense and special teams, according to ESPN’s standard scoring system for fantasy football. In three of the last six games they yielded less than 10 points per game.
We knew the Chiefs offense could score points (a steady 28 points per game average), but their improving defense doubled the margin of victory from 4.5 (weeks 1-10) to 9 points per game (weeks 11-17).
Kansas City will need a solid mix of offense, defense and special teams, because the Tennessee Titans went 4-2 after beating the Chiefs, finished 9-7 and secured a wild card spot in the playoffs. They promptly won two consecutive games as road team underdogs against the No. 3 seed New England Patriots and the No. 1 seed Baltimore Ravens.
From a fantasy football point-of-view (POV), both teams feature solid performers. In the last four games of the season, Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill was ranked No. 2 at quarterback, according to fantasy.nfl.com. He threw for 10 touchdowns, 1182 yards passing and only two interceptions. Tannehill’s 93.3 fantasy points was second only to Saints QB Drew Brees’ 113.2 points.
Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes was No. 10 in the last four weeks of the 2019 season with six touchdowns, 1048 yards passing and three interceptions. But those statistics should be tossed aside, when you consider Mahomes led the Chiefs back from a 24-0 deficit to beat the Houston Texans, 51-31, last Sunday.
He completed 23 out of 35 passes for five touchdowns and 321 yards against the Texans, but it was Mahomes ability to scramble for positive yardage when the team needed it most that helped them rally to victory. The Chiefs quarterback must have been channeling Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as he ran seven times for 53 yards.
While Kansas City uses multiple-player sets to generate their running game, their defense will need to be strong and diligent to withstand the constant pounding of the Titans’ offensive line and Derrick Henry to keep the Tennessee running game in check. Their top priority is stopping or at least slowing down Tennessee running back Derrick Henry. Henry ran for 188 yards in the week 10 win over Kansas City and has run for 182 and 195 yards respectively in the Titans’ two playoff wins.
Except for A.J. Brown who averaged 13.6 fantasy football points per game and caught eight touchdown passes during the regular season, the Titans cannot match the Chiefs trifecta of pass receivers in Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce. For an added boost, they have Mecole Hardman to return kickoffs.
Both teams have provided some exciting football in the playoffs. Based on the intensity displayed by the Chiefs and the Titans, the difference will be a field goal. Kansas City wins at home, 31-28.