Which Team is Best Equipped to Stop the Chiefs?

No team appears more unstoppable right now than the Kansas City Chiefs. The reigning Super Bowl champions are 12–1, and have shown no signs of slowing down. The Chiefs currently rank in the top-two in total yards per game (first), passing yards per game (first), and points per game (second). Patrick Mahomes is leading the MVP race, as he ranks first in passing yards, and third in passing touchdowns this season. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would pick a team other than Kansas City to win the Super Bowl this year. However, this is the NFL and anything can happen. So if one team were to upset the Chiefs in the playoffs, who would it be?

Enter the Tennessee Titans.

I know the Titans may not have been the first team that came to mind when imagining a Kansas City upset. The Green Bay Packers or New Orleans Saints likely would’ve been most people’s first choice. I however, believe it’s the Titans that could cause the most problems for KC.

The Titans currently have a record of 9–4. Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

First let’s start with the obvious. Derrick Henry is one of the most dangerous weapons in all of football. And what better way to beat the Chiefs than to keep Mahomes and that offense off the field. This also benefits Tennessee by protecting their less than stellar defense. The Titans’ defense has struggled, allowing the seventh-most total yards per game, and the fourth-most passing yards per game this season. If Henry is having a great game though, Tennessee wouldn’t have to worry as much about Mahomes torching their defense.

It’s likely that Henry would have a good game against Kansas City just because of his pure ability. The superstar running back currently has the most rushing yards (1,532), and the most rushing touchdowns (14) in the NFL. The likelihood Henry has a monster game against the Chiefs increases however, once you look at KC’s defensive stats. Kansas City is allowing the seventh-most rushing yards per game, which isn’t a good sign if you have to stop King Henry.

Now maybe the Chiefs would focus their entire game plan on not allowing Henry to beat them. That’s easier said than done, considering the Titans’ philosophy. Henry has the most rushing attempts this season; and Tennessee doesn’t care if you’re trying to stop him. The Titans just keep running him and running him until the defense eventually tires out.

Derrick Henry leads the league with 1,532 rushing yards. Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

But let’s just say Kansas City does go all out at stopping Henry. Tennessee unfortunately, in the case of the Chiefs, can beat you in other ways. There’s a reason the Titans rank in the top-five in total yards per game (third-most), and points per game (fourth-most). Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been excellent this year. Tannehill has the sixth-most passing touchdowns (28), while throwing just five interceptions. The Tennessee QB is also a threat on the ground, as he has two rushing touchdowns. While the offense is centered around Henry, the Titans certainly have more than enough outside of the running back to allow Tannehill to cause problems. Receiver A.J. Brown is a star; and currently has the sixth-most receiving touchdowns despite missing two games. Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith provide nice complementary pieces in the passing game as well.

Another issue Tennessee would cause Kansas City is in the turnover battle. The Chiefs rely on their defense to force turnovers, as they’re tied for the seventh-most takeaways. The Titans however, don’t turn the ball over. Tennessee is tied for the fewest giveaways all season with nine. The Titans aren’t going to beat themselves, which puts all the pressure on KC.

Ryan Tannehill has thrown just five interceptions all year. Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Speaking off pressure, everyone would likely be picking the Chiefs to win this game. Tennessee would be able to play care free, while Kansas City would have to deal with the massive expectations. Add that to limited possessions for Mahomes, and KC would have an increased urgency that every drive matters that much more.

The blueprint is there for a Titans upset. Now I’m not saying that it will necessarily happen. The Chiefs would be favored as they should be. Kansas City did beat the Titans in last season’s AFC Championship game. However, if you ask me what team has the best chance at knocking off the champs, it’s the Tennessee Titans.

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Jacob Burns

Jacob Burns

University at Buffalo ’20 | BA in Communication | Writer for The Sports Scientist & Kicks N’ Cleats