Both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans achieved highly emotional victories in Week Six. Kansas City may have finally figured some things out in spots that had plagued them early this season. Meanwhile, Tennessee was able to down one of the NFL’s hottest teams in the Bills last week, and now has an important head to head tiebreaker over one of the AFC’s heavy favorites.
Tennessee’s offensive strength is obviously red hot, as we will get to. However, the rest of the offense is starting to get healthier and more in sync. What version of the Titans offense will we see on Sunday afternoon? Plus, there are many guesses as to what version we will get of both Kansas City’s defense and Tennessee’s defense.
Today, we will be giving our own view of the Tennessee Titans entering their matchup with the Chiefs. What can Kansas City expect from their offense and defense? Let’s kick it off by jumping into the Titans offense.
The natural saying surrounding running backs is that they do not matter. The idea that someone else can easily step in and thrive is generally agreed upon. But, Derrick Henry is built differently. The Alabama product has long been recognized as the league’s best running back. Henry continues to defy history at the running back position, by continuing to dominate and improve. Most guys at the position begin to slow down significantly after two or three strong seasons.
Henry pounded Buffalo all night long on Monday night. He finished with 143 rushing yards on 20 carries, good for 7.15 yards per carry. More importantly, the runner scored three rushing touchdowns. He has run for three touchdowns in back to back weeks entering the Chiefs game. To boot, Henry has already done that three times this season, and we are only six weeks into the 2021 campaign. Finally, he only has one game this season where he did not accumulate at least 113 yards on the ground (Week One vs Arizona, 58 rushing yards).
The pace Henry is on puts him in prime position to secure a second straight season with over 2,000 rushing yards. He also only needs eight more rushing touchdowns to set a new single season best mark in his career. That feels achievable before Thanksgiving rolls around, at this point.
Kansas City was embarrassed by King Henry last time they traveled to Nashville. The Chiefs allowed nearly 200 rushing yards (188) and over eight yards per carry. They did a much better job in the AFC Championship Game at home against Henry later on that season. The Titans know he only gets stronger as the game gets deeper. Additionally, Henry is their one way ticket to making a deep playoff run, while also opening up the offense to a greater degree.
Over the first five games, Tennessee’s passing attack was in the bottom half of the league in many statistical categories. Ryan Tannehill had been struggling to push the ball down the field. The quarterback had largely continued to struggle to convert on crucial downs. Moreover, Tannehill had seen his pass catching arsenal disintegrate all at once. Injuries to AJ Brown, Julio Jones, Jeremy McNichols and others severely hampered the passing game’s chances.
The switch flipped on Monday night against the Bills. Tannehill consistently hit on throws down the field more often. Both Brown and Jones opened the game with full health after dealing with hamstring injuries. The wide receiver duo made their presence felt in ways we had been accustomed to seeing. Brown’s intricate route running and solid feel for finding soft spots led to conversions in vital moments. On the other hand, Jones was able to win downfield while stressing the defense vertically.
The Titans passing attack also got back to their versatile ways. Stretching plays horizontally, running RPOs, running play action from under center and giving Tannehill outside leverage throws allowed Tennessee to match Buffalo score for score. Due to the combined success of Henry and the passing game winning with multiple looks, the Titans may have found their complete groove on offense for the first time this season.
The Titans have tried hard to push all of their chips in on this winning window they are currently in. Ever since they reached the AFC Championship Game two years ago, many fascinating roster moves have taken place. While some of those have paid off, one area of this team has continued to fall backwards.
The Titans defense was once one of the most instinctual and feared units in the league a few years ago. And while there are still a few key players in place (i.e. Harold Landry, Jeffery Simmons, Kevin Byard), the talent has been dwindled down on Tennessee’s defense. The releases or trades that included names like Jurrell Casey, DaQuan Jones, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Kenny Vaccaro and Adoree’ Jackson all affected the Titans in a variety of ways.
Speed, awareness, confidence and leadership were all lost in this series of moves. Sure, it allowed the Titans to pay some of their current top performers by freeing up some salary cap space. Veterans and strong locker room leaders were all let go though, despite still playing at a high level.
Fast forward to 2021, the Titans secondary is one of the worst in the entire NFL. The injuries have devastated this unit, as they have recently lost both Kristian Fulton and Caleb Farley to the injured reserve list. Both were premium draft picks at cornerback in the last two years. Replacements, Chris Jackson and Breon Borders, have yet to soften that blow. Additionally, veteran Janoris Jenkins looks as helpless as could be on the backend.
Pass rushers Landry, Simmons, Bud Dupree and Denico Autry will pose as challenging matchups for the Chiefs. Yet, they can only carry the load so far. The Titans are out of control and undisciplined when those guys cannot get home. What adjustments will the Tennessee defense make, if any, against Patrick Mahomes and Co.?
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs articles throughout the rest of this week. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.