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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans Prediction and Preview

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Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tennessee Titans Prediction and Preview

Titans host the Chiefs in what could be an AFC title game preview... again

The Kansas City Chiefs look to jump-start their season when they travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans for what should be the premier early kickoff game on Sunday.

In Week 6, it seemed like the Chiefs were teetering with just a 2-3 record and a halftime deficit to the Washington Football Team. The Kansas City defense has been suspect at best and their offense was turning the ball over more than usual  a lot more than usual. But Kansas City morphed back into the old Chiefs to rally in the second half and run away with a 31-13 win at FedEx Field. Still, questions remain. Their three wins this season have come against teams with a combined record of 7-11, while their losses have been at the hands of teams with 13 wins and just five losses. A victory on the road against a resurgent Titans squad could prove to be the catalyst that proves Kansas City still belongs atop the AFC and ignites another deep playoff run.

The Titans (4-2) are coming off the high of their dramatic 34-31 home win over the Bills on "Monday Night Football." Derrick Henry proved he is still the baddest man in shoulder pads (this side of Aaron Donald) and is running as hard as ever, but questions and injury concerns still swirl around this Titans defense, especially the secondary. Last week's win against Buffalo proved that Tennessee has the talent and toughness to hang with the class of the AFC, particularly when the offense is healthy. With the Titans as the heavy favorite to win another AFC South title, a victory against Kanas City on Sunday could pay dividends in the long term with home-field advantage in the latter rounds of the postseason.

Kansas City (3-3) at Tennessee (4-2)

Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS
Spread: Chiefs -5

Three Things to Watch

1. King Henry on pace for NFL greatness
I don't think it's hyperbole to say that Henry is the most important skill position player in the league. Meaning, the Titans' offense simply wouldn't function without him in the lineup. The last couple of seasons, Henry has been known to turn it on in the second half of the schedule, bowling over worn-down defenses to the rushing title. But this season, King Henry is busting out of the gate and running like he's trying to change NFL history.

Just six games into the season and Henry is already leading the league in rushing by a wide, wide margin. His 783 yards are 230 more than second-place Nick Chubb's 523, and his 162 carries are 51 more than Joe Mixon's 111. And his 10 touchdown runs are twice as many as anyone else in the league. At this pace, Henry would win the rushing title by approximately 700-ish yards, be on pace to break the NFL record for carries (416) and touchdowns (28) in a single season, and be the first player to not only have back-to-back 2,000-yard rushing seasons, but the first player to ever have multiple such performances, period. The man is the closest thing to a superhero we've got.

Oh, and last week against the league's top-ranked scoring and rushing defense, Henry shredded the Bills for 143 yards on just 20 carries (7.1 ypc) and three touchdowns. No big deal.

This week the Chiefs come to Nashville with one of the worst rushing defenses in the league. Kansas City is last in expected points by a rushing defense (-26.28), sixth worst in yards allowed (133.2 per game), and tied for second worst in rushing touchdowns allowed (9) and yards per attempt (5.2). The Chiefs opened the season by facing two of the top four running offenses in the league in Cleveland and Baltimore and surrendered more than 400 yards on the ground between the two. This week, they welcome the league's best ground game in terms of points expected (28.88) and third-best unit in yards per game (164.2).

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2. Can KC protect the ball?
The last two seasons, Kansas City was one of the best teams in the league at not turning it over with just 16 giveaways last season (28th) and 15 in 2019 (28th). But this season, something seems to have gone awry, with the Chiefs leading the league in turnovers (14) and owning the second-worst differential (-8).

The Chiefs' inability to hang on to the ball seems to be rampant, as five different players have tallied nine fumbles. Six of those were recovered by the defense, the most in the league. Kansas City has more lost fumbles than rushing touchdowns (five).

Not even Patrick Mahomes is exempt from this turnover bug. Mahomes is responsible for nine himself, eight of those being interceptions. He's second in that category behind only rookie Zach Wilson (nine). Mahomes had six interceptions all of last season and only five in 2019. His interception rate in 2021 (3.3 percent) is nearly double his career mark (1.7 percent).

So, what gives? By my estimation, it's two things. One, Mahomes is just unlucky. Three of those eight picks bounced off of Chiefs receivers, including his first-half interception against Washington that caromed off the paws of Tyreek Hill. Second, some of the daring throws we're used to seeing Mahomes complete are ending up in the wrong hands. His 13 "danger plays" — plays where the quarterback's lack of awareness should have or do result in a turnover — are the 12th-most in the league this season, as are his 11 interceptable passes according to Playerprofler.com.

Mahomes and the Chiefs were able to get away with three turnovers last week against Washington, but Tennessee's top-10 offense (28.8 ppg) won't let Kansas City off the hook so easily.

3. Bend, don't break
Neither the Titans nor the Chiefs are what you might call defensive stalwarts. Both squads are among the worst in the league in total defense, with Tennessee surrendering 6.1 yards per play (27th) and Kansas City dead last at 6.7. Both also are in the bottom third in scoring defense — 26.8 points per game for the Titans (24th) and 29.3 for the Chiefs (28th). And both are rather mediocre at pestering opposing quarterbacks in terms of pressure percentage (about 25 percent for each), with KC producing just seven sacks thus far, the fewest in the NFL.

But last week against the Bills, Tennessee showed an area that may offer a slight advantage on Sunday. The Titans are coming off of a game in which they held the NFL's best offense to two touchdowns in five trips to the red zone. Buffalo kicked a pair of field goals, but the other drive inside the 20-yard line ended in the game-sealing turnover on downs when Tennessee stuffed Josh Allen on fourth-and-1 just three yards from the end zone.

Those defensive stands deep in their own territory were indicative of the Titans' efforts so far this season. Tennessee has allowed the second-most red zone trips (25) but has conceded touchdowns a little more than half the time (56 percent), which ranks 12th in the league. But first-round pick cornerback Caleb Farley tore his ACL on Monday night, further depleting an already banged-up secondary. Will the Titans be able to clamp down against the NFL's most dangerous red zone quarterback in Mahomes and his assortment of weapons?

Final Analysis

I think this game all comes down to which defense can get stops and force teams to kick the ball, whether it's a punt or a field goal try. Holding the Bills to three-pointers early in the game saved the Titans last week. Can they do it again against the Chiefs? And if Kansas City's defense can't get off of the field against the game's best first-down generator in Henry (39 rushing), especially on third down (Chiefs are allowing teams to convert 45.5 percent of the time, 29th in the NFL), Mahomes and Co. may not have enough time to score and keep KC in this game.

Prediction: Titans 31, Chiefs 29

— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.