The 2018 NFL Playoffs begin Saturday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium, where a sea of red fans will cheer on the Chiefs as they host the Titans. At 9-7, the Titans snuck into the postseason on the final day of the regular season, and Vegas is hinting at a short run.
The Chiefs are eight-point favorites for the contest, according to OddsShark. The total for this matchup is set at 44.5. According to the OddsShark computer, 52 percent of the action is on the Titans +8, and 51 percent of the action is taking over 44.5.
After a worrying midseason slide, the Chiefs turned their season around to win the AFC West. A big reason for the change was on the sidelines, where playcalling duties were passed to offensive coordinator Matt Nagy. One of Nagy’s adjustments was an increased use of Kareem Hunt, who captured the NFL’s rushing title in his first professional season.
Hunt, who will compete with Alvin Kamara for Offensive Rookie of the Year, is a do-everything back who should give the Titans fits. During the Chiefs three-game winning streak to close the season before they pulled starters, Hunt had at least 24 attempts and a rushing touchdown in each contest.
The Titans will be fully committed to their ground game on Saturday, but their two-headed attack will be cut in half. DeMarco Murray tried to play through a knee injury this weekend, but it was announced earlier in the week that he will be inactive for the contest. That means a full workload for former Alabama back Derrick Henry, who rarely sees solo work in the Titans backfield. He was all alone for last week’s must-win against the Jaguars, but Henry was dissatisfied with his performance.
“I didn’t feel like a workhorse back. I kind of felt soft,” Henry told reporters after the game. “I’m not really happy about that game at all. It hasn’t left my mind since the clock hit zeroes. I’ve been working hard this week and trying to get better than I was last week and looking forward to the game on Saturday.” If Henry has a point to prove, it could be a long and painful day for the Chiefs defense.
Despite being underdogs, travelling to Kansas City isn’t a new experience for the Titans. They braved the cold and noise of Arrowhead last year, and shocked many when they left with a 19-17 victory. The Chiefs opened up a 14-0 lead early, but the Titans scored 13 points in the final quarter and walked off on a game-winning 53-yard field goal from Ryan Succop. The Titans turned the ball over three times in that game, but converted more third downs and committed less penalties to keep it close. So for everyone saying that the Titans have no chance, they can look no further than one season ago.
This year, the difference maker could be Alex Smith. The veteran QB has been more aggressive than ever in his 13th professional season, and has set a career high for average passing yards per attempt (8.0). Smith, combined with Hunt, Kelce, and Tyreek Hill, could be too much to overcome for a Titans defense that allowed over 350 passing yards to Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers two weeks ago.
The Titans can keep it close, but it’s too much offense from Kansas City.
Heavy’s Pick: Titans 19 Chiefs 34. Chiefs Cover -8 Spread. Over on the Point Total.