Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs
Kickoff: 12:05 p.m. PT
Really? A total of 53 for this matchup in the AFC Championship?
For comparison, that’s higher than last week’s Texans-Chiefs Divisional Round contest despite it featuring the superior AFC South offense. The Titans arriving in Kansas City has even drawn a higher over/under than the early-season Ravens-Chiefs showdown, when it was already universally known that Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson-led unit would rank them among the highest-scoring teams in all of football.
Going back further, this isn’t even too far off from the understandably absurd Super Bowl LI total (Patriots-Falcons) of 58, a number that was unheard of at the time.
Are the linesmakers overreacting to recent events? Clearly yes — while not properly weighing other factors as well.
Sure, they’re probably referring to a tendency I’ve covered several times, specifically the efficiency of the Chiefs offense at home with Patrick Mahomes under center. He’s made 17 starts at Arrowhead Stadium (including playoffs) now in his career and KC averaged 31.5 points (!) in those games. Overall, the Chiefs were fifth in scoring during the campaign, one year after finishing first.
Tennessee is also entering this AFC title game in a groove. More precisely, the strong ox-like legs of Derrick Henry have bull-rushed the Titans to this point with historic feats.
Henry has compiled a whopping 588 rushing yards since Week 17, a span during which the former second-round draft pick became the first player in NFL history to run for at least 180 yards in three straight games. He’s also the first to tally 170-plus yards on the ground in back-to-back postseason affairs. Simply put, Henry is on a special roll right now that we’ve rarely seen from a running back.
The previous meeting between these two clubs also played a role in the over/under winding up in its current position. In that Week 10 contest, emanating from Tennessee, the Titans narrowly pulled out a 35-32 victory. So, with that and the upwards trend of both offenses in mind, it makes sense that the next encounter is labeled with a higher-than-expected total.
But here’s the thing: that type of game script on display in the first matchup isn’t likely to play out again in the rematch. Not only will the conditions be significantly different, too, but so are the teams as well.
First of all, it’s important to note the weather, as should always be the case for any event at Arrowhead in the heart of winter. Temperatures below 20 degrees are expected, which could have a considerable impact on both quarterbacks. Mahomes carries a career 95.5 passer rating in games with the temperature that low, and while that’s obviously not bad, it’s still more than 13 points below his career average (108.9).
For Ryan Tannehill, this may have a bigger effect. He has a 72.9 passer rating when it’s 40 degrees or lower outside, so with the temperature supposed to be less than half that, look for the former Miami Dolphin to mostly be a non-factor.
As it is, Tennessee has run the ball 38.7 times per game in the last three weeks — all important games — something that can be very beneficial for an under this high. Tannehill, meanwhile, attempted just 49 passes total. Even if Chris Jones (calf) doesn’t suit up, the anticipation of this obvious game plan will be a big boost.
Can the Titans’ defense chime in with useful productivity? Well, that goes back to the point of how these teams are different from their first clash. Tennessee has been terrific again defensively, in fact, slaying Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson in back-to-back weeks by holding them to only 25 points combined.
It’s reminiscent of the defense from early in the season, when they held their first six opponents all to no more than 17 points each week. In other words, the Chiefs will have to work for their scoring, which only ticks time off the clock. Play: UNDER 52 (-110)
Last Week: Texans-Chiefs Over 50.5 (WIN)
2019-20 NFL Over/Under Betting Record*: 12-10, +0.2 unit
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit