Tom Childs (@tomchilds56) from Arrowhead Pride was nice enough to answer 5 questions about his Kansas City Chiefs heading into tomorrow’s AFC Championship Game.
1. Is Chris Jones going to play? How much does it change the defense if he isn’t able to go?
Right now, your guess is as good as mine. We heard last week that Jones wasn’t even close to being ready for the Chiefs win over the Texans. It’s so unfortunate that a team can win itself a bye week to get healthy for a run but find a way to return from the bye week worse off.
Even if Jones can go, I highly doubt how much of an impact he can have on the game. Although he is a top interior pass rusher, Jones, who is coming to the end of year four, is still hit or miss against the run. Don’t be surprised to see the Chiefs go heavy with Derrick Nnadi and Mike Pennel on early downs and then have Jones rotate in for obvious passing situations (if he plays).
2. What defense had the most success against Patrick Mahomes this season? What did they do?
The easy answer would be the Colts, as they were the first team to hold Mahomes to under 26 points, but there were so many different things that contributed to that loss that I don’t think it is true to say that the Colts had the most success against Mahomes. For that reason, I am going to go with a team that had the most success against a full-strength Chiefs offense — the New England Patriots.
Yes, somehow, despite them being eliminated, we find ourselves still talking about the Patriots in late January. Of all of the teams the Chiefs have faced since Mahomes took over as starter, it has been New England that has given him the most significant headaches. Whether it is disguising coverages or jamming receivers at the line, Bill Belichick has managed to find a way to mess with the timing of the Chiefs’ normally machine-like offense.
A preferred tactic of the Patriots is to double up Tyreek Hill and then use Stephon Gilmore to cover Sammy Watkins one on one. By doing so, the Chiefs’ big plays in these contests have been more limited. There is a chance we will see similar usage for Logan Ryan against Watkins this weekend.
Don’t get me wrong; the Patriots success very rarely lasts an entire game.
Eventually, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes figure things out. And when they do, the Chiefs offense can make up for lost time very quickly. See last week. You simply can’t silence the Chiefs offense. The aim is to limit them.
3. Can the Chiefs defense slow down King Henry? Why or why not?
The hope amongst everyone in Kansas City is that the Chiefs won’t have to.
I don’t think Derrick Henry can be stopped on a play-to-play basis at the moment, but teams can limit the amount of impact he has on a game. By jumping out to an early lead and limiting mistakes on offense, the Chiefs would be hoping that Mike Vrabel abandons the run and turns to his quarterback. In that case, I think everyone would back Patrick Mahomes to out-duel Ryan Tannehill.
If, however, the Chiefs find themselves in a close game, then it is advantage Titans. For all of their defensive improvements, the Chiefs still show bad habits against the run on occasions. There will be opportunities aplenty for Henry. The scoreboard and clock will decide how effective they are.
4. Who are the Chiefs under the radar guys we should know about?
The guy that no one has been talking about since returning to the lineup is Eric Fisher, I mean, who wants to talk about offensive line play? Oh, this is a Titans site. So I guess you guys do!
The Chiefs’ offensive woes began when Cam Erving replaced Fisher at left tackle. First, there was the now-infamous play in Kansas City when Erving fell on to Mahomes’ ankle, aggravating the quarterback’s pre-existing injury. And then, during the Chiefs and Titans’ previous meeting, Fisher’s replacement managed to end fellow Chief Martinas Rankin’s season in a similar incident. To say the left side of the offensive line was a disaster while Fisher was out would be a bit of an understatement.
But since Fisher’s return, things have certainly been trending upwards. Sacks and pressures on Mahomes are down, and points are up. Why so? Mahomes is healthy and he finally trusts his big guys up front. It can’t just be a coincidence that the upward curve began when Fisher returned.
5. How does the game play out? Score prediction.
I cannot see the Chiefs getting off to a start that even resembles last week’s. They got away with it against a team that is not designed to hold leads like the Titans are. The first 15 minutes in this game will write the script for the next 45. If the Titans start well, the premier matchup will be Steve Spagnuolo against Derrick Henry. If the Chiefs start well, the premier matchup becomes Ryan Tannehill against Patrick Mahomes.
Due to the fact I believe that Mahomes and the Chiefs will pick up from where they left off last week, the Titans will be dragged into a shootout. In that situation, you have to side with Mahomes.
Chiefs 41, Titans 24