The Kansas City Chiefs moved to 4-0 for the first time in a decade after their home win against the struggling New York Giants.
The team had major contributions from all three phases including Dexter McCluster‘s electrifying 89-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Chiefs are really rolling as a team and they look to continue that this week in Tennessee.
The Titans aren’t so bad themselves, having won 3 games and losing only to their divisional rival, the Texans, on a last-minute play. However, last week in their win over the Jets, Titans quarterback Jake Locker took a shot on a pass play that resulted in a significant sprain in his hip. Locker also suffered a minor sprain in his knee and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
Locker’s injury certainly benefits the Chiefs, considering the type of season he was starting to put together. Lets take a look at the numbers.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS:
Before Locker was struck with the sprained hip and knee, he has seemed to turn some kind of corner in the third year of his career. Locker has a QB rating of 99.9 with six touchdowns, zero interceptions and 721 yards passing. He’s also been effective when running the ball, accumulating 98 yards on the ground. The Titans will miss his production this Sunday.
Stepping in for Locker this week is former Bills quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Tennessee brought him in this off-season after he was released, and he is a serviceable back up that can win games for any team in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick has a winning record of 4-1 against the Chiefs in his career. He’s definitely been a thorn in the Chiefs side in the recent past, throwing for eight touchdowns against only two interceptions for a passer rating of 86.7 against KC. For whatever reason, Fitzpatrick has had some serious success when facing the Chiefs, but I believe that all changes this week.
Titans running back, and big play threat, Chris Johnson is not having the season that their fans were hoping for. Johnson is only averaging 3.3 yards per attempt, and is yet to give them the big play. Former Chief Jackie Battle is Johnson’s backup. He’s done a nice job when stepping in and look for him to be fired up against his old team. Kansas City’s stingy defense should be able to contain Johnson and Battle. The Chiefs want to try to make Fitzpatrick beat them.
Tennessee has a solid receiving corps as well. They’re lead by wide receiver Nate Washington with his 19 catches for 332 yards and two touchdowns. The Titans have been running a first-read and throw offense, meaning the quarterback looks at his first guy and fires it into the space where the underneath route is, or if they read man, take that shot deep one-on-one and hope for the big play or pass interference. It’s what they must do in order to fully utilize Jake Locker’s strengths, and, so far, it has worked almost to perfection.
However, the “underneath” offense has the Titans near the bottom in stats. They rank 29th in passing yards (193), 29th in total yards per game (312.8), and 13th in scoring with 24.5 points per game. Kansas City matches up well against this offense, and, without Locker, the Chiefs should be able to force some turnovers against Fitzpatrick.
Tennessee’s defense has been one of the best in the league so far this season, only surrendering an average of 17.2 points per game. They’re also ranked 9th in total defense, only giving up 313 yards per game and have 14 sacks total.
The Chiefs offense will be tested this week, especially on the road, but I believe that Jamaal Charles finally breaks a big run of 50 plus yards. Tennessee had a hard time slowing down the Jets rushing attack early, but Geno Smith had serious turnover issues that lead to an easy victory for the Titans. If Jamaal has a big game on the ground, this could be a long day for Tennessee.
MATCH-UPS TO WATCH:
The Titans offensive line has been sub-par through their first four games, giving up a total of 9 sacks. Kansas City still leads the NFL with 18 sacks and it will be interesting to see if Tennessee can slow them down. Dontari Poe and Justin Houston both had quiet days last week in the sacks department, but Tamba Hali stepped up and collected two sacks and a forced fumble. The Titans will have to pick their poison as well. Will they double team Houston, Poe or Hali? Either way, someone is going to have one-on-one match-ups up front.
Kansas City has been riddled with a few injuries, mostly at the tight end position. When the season started, the Chiefs felt like tight end was a strength on this roster. Because of injuries to Moeaki, Fasano and Kelce, the Chiefs were forced to make some moves and GM John Dorsey has hit a home run on Sean McGrath.
Nicknamed “Duck Dynasty” because of his amazing beard, McGrath has been a security Blanket for Alex Smith since Fasano has been battling his ankle sprain. When Fasano does return to the field, KC should feel really good about the tight end position once again. McGrath was huge on third down last week, and I look for him to be just as effective this week against Tennessee.
As I mentioned earlier, Jamaal Charles is yet to have a huge play like he did so often last season. Despite not having a huge run, Charles has been the centerpiece of the KC offense and has four TD’s through four games. The Titans have had a strong defense against team’s rushing attacks, giving up an average of 99 yards per game. Still, Tennessee has given up a big run of at least 51 yards and I can see Jamaal breaking a big one this week. It will be interesting to see how the Titans approach the containment of Charles and the KC rushing attack.
The Chiefs are early 2.5 point favorites in Tennessee, despite Fitzpatrick’s 4-1 record against them. The Titans and Chiefs are very similar teams in that they protect the football and play strong defense. However, Kansas City has a bit more talent on both sides of the ball and certainly have the advantage in coaching. If Kansas City wants to leave Nashville this Sunday with a 5-0 record, they’re going to have to continue to play strong and together. I like their chances.
The game starts at 12 PM CDT on CBS.