For the first time since January of 2009, the Tennessee Titans are in the playoffs. It’s been nine long years for fans. For some of the teams longest tenured players like Brett Kern, Jurrell Casey, and Derrick Morgan, this has been a long time coming. The last time the Titans made the playoffs following their impressive 13-3 2008 season, the NFL landscape was very different. It’s a relieving payoff for Titan’s fans that have been anxiously watching this team struggle the better part of a decade. It may not have been pretty, but this postseason berth speaks volumes to the culture change this team has been working on for the past two years. Jon Robinson and Mike Mularkey have built and unified a good group of players that the fan base is starting to get behind. Hopefully this is the start of a new era of success for pro football in Tennessee. Now, for the first time in nine years, here is a Titans playoff preview:
What happened last time these teams met?
The last time the Titans played the Kansas City Chiefs, they walked away with a last second Ryan Succup field goal for the improbable 19-17 win in freezing temperatures. It marked one of the best wins for the team all season. The Titans will hope to replicate that type of magic this Saturday in Kansas City for their Wild Card round bout.
Which Chiefs team will show up?
The Chiefs started this season this season red hot. Starting with an impressive victory over the Patriots in New England, the Chiefs won their first five games. The offense looked electric with rookie running back Kareem Hunt emerging as a star and Alex Smith playing the best football of his career. They then lost six of their next seven games, and looked like a shell of the team that took the league by storm the first quarter of the season. After that mid-season rough patch, the Chiefs finished the season strong with a four game win streak. When its firing on all cylinders, this Andy Reid coached team has the potential light up the score board quickly. With elusive receiver Tyreek Hill and playmaking tight end Travis Kelce to throw to, Alex Smith has better weapons than he has ever had at his disposal. At their best, the Chiefs looked nearly unbeatable this season, but at their worst, they have been a pushover that lets inferior opponents hang around and upset them in games that shouldn’t be close.
Can the Titans Offense Come Alive?
Throughout the season, the Titans coaching staff has been under criticism for their play calling offensively. The offense has often times seemed lethargic and stalled out through large portions of games. It seems like every game this season, the Titans have at least one incredible play, or one really nice well executed scoring drive that shows flashes of this offense’s potential. For the most part, however, the Titans have been highly inconsistent on offense, without ever seeming to find a good grove. Rookie Corey Davis has had a few highlight catches, but for the most part has been a huge disappointment during his rookie season, and his chemistry with Quarterback Marcus Mariota has been an issue all season. Mariota has thrown more interceptions than touchdown passes this season, and has seemingly taken a step back in his development. Starting running back Demarco Murray will be out against the Chiefs, second year back Derrick Henry has shined at times when given the ball. If he can get things going on the ground it will make the day a lot easier on Mariota. While Mariota is undoubtedly the engine that makes this offense go, it remains to be seen how high he can take it. This Chiefs defense ranked 29th this season against the pass and 25th against the run. While the Chiefs defense has some playmakers, it is missing its best player in safety Eric Berry. If the Titans offense can find its stride Saturday, it could do some big things. That being said, the offense can also be the Titans downfall if it can’t get things going.
Can the Titans Defense Continue to Make Plays?
Sunday against the Jaguars, the defense came up big, producing four turnovers including two huge interceptions by All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. These big plays made the difference as the Titans defense suffocated the Jaguars all game. While Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense isn’t quite as much of a threat as the Chiefs offense, it still showed how well this Titans defense can play. The Titans defense was excellent against the run this season ranking 4th in the NFL allowing under 90 yards per game. If the defense can avoid giving up any big pass plays to the Chiefs, and they step up in a must win situation like they did last week, they can win this football game for the Titans.
Prediction: Chiefs 24 Titans 19
This will be a tightly contest game that comes down to the wire. I expect the defense to keep the Titans in this ballgame, but in the end, the Chiefs offense will put the game out of reach and the Titans will come up short with the game on the line. I hope I’m wrong, and the Titans turn the tables on the Chiefs and come to play Saturday. Regardless of the outcome, this is a long awaited treat to experience as a Titans fan, and it gives the team some much needed experience. Win or lose, this taste of the playoffs will be in the minds of each and every single player on that roster, and that hunger will only get stronger. This is a new era in Titans football, and with this young talented roster there is a lot to be excited about looking toward the future.