Saturday night could be a lot of fun in Kansas City if the prevailing wisdom proves to be true.
The Chiefs will play host to the Titans in an AFC Wild Card Game that kicks off at 3:35 p.m. on Saturday. The oddsmakers like the Chiefs’ chances, and so do most NFL observers.
Here are how 18 people who follow the NFL see the game turning out. (Spoiler alert: most think the Chiefs will win a postseason game at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time since 1994).
▪ Ryan Wilson of CBSSports.com thinks the Chiefs will win 28-17.
“Kansas City and Tennessee are teams going in different directions; the Chiefs are starting to resemble the team that started the year 5-0 while it’s unclear if the Titans have emerged from their late-season funk that saw them drop three of their final four games,” Wilson wrote. “Not only that, but it’s hard to imagine Tennessee having a game plan to slow Kansas City’s high-powered offense, and Mariota and the Titans’ offense haven’t shown the consistency to keep them in games.”
▪ Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times believes the Chiefs will win a close game.
“Marcus Mariota makes Tennessee a threat in any game he plays, and the Titans can certainly run the ball with great efficiency, but if the Chiefs let Hunt dictate the pace of their offense, they should survive what is probably the closest matchup of the wild-card weekend,” Hoffman wrote.
▪ Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com forecasts a 22-17 Chiefs victory.
“This one will turn on turnovers,” Berman wrote. “The Titans are the only playoff team with a negative TO differential (-4), while Kansas City is plus-nine since Marcus Peters’ team-imposed suspension. If the Chiefs can force (Marcus) Mariota to test Peters and commit turnovers, K.C. will dictate the pace of this postseason opener and finally send an Arrowhead crowd home happy in January.”
▪ The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg thinks the Chiefs will win a close game.
“A bruising rusher, (Kareem Hunt) averaged 3.1 yards per carry after contact, the sixth-most in the NFL this season,” Greenberg wrote. “No player had more rushes of 20 yards or more (12) in 2017. The Titans, meanwhile, stopped just 20 percent of opposing rushers at or behind the line of scrimmage, 22nd in the league this season.”
▪ Deion Sanders of the NFL Network expects an easy Chiefs win. “Kansas City should be successful by at least two touchdowns,” he said.
▪ Greg Cote of the Miami Herald believes the Chiefs will win 30-17.
“I’ll deploy a Dolphins Factor to explain why I think Saturday’s early game could be a mismatch,” Cote wrote. “The 6-10 Fins handled the Titans 16-10 this season, but got dominated by the Chiefs, 29-13. That’s a small sample that says a lot. Tennessee, in its first postseason since 2008, feels like Miami did a year ago: Like an overmatched one-and-done waiting to happen. Titans QB Marcus Mariota is error-prone (15 INTs), and Kansas City’s defense had 26 takeaways this season — including 24 in its 10 wins.”
▪ Vinnie Iyer of the Sporting News picks a 30-16 Chiefs win.
“Mariota is more limited with his wideout weaponry and hasn’t been as crisp as (Alex) Smith,” Iyer wrote. “The Chiefs are also built to contain (Delanie) Walker. Expect the Chiefs to jump out to a significant lead by the third quarter and force the Titans to go away from sticking to the run. Then the Chiefs will turn to Hunt in the fourth quarter to ensure they end their long Arrowhead postseason drought.”
▪ The people at the Tennessean who cover the Titans are split.
Jason Wolf picked the Titans to win 20-19.
“A big play on defense or special teams helps keep Tennessee in the game, and Marcus Mariota leads another late scoring drive for the Titans’ first playoff victory since defeating the Ravens in Baltimore in the wild-card round in January 2004,” Wolf wrote.
Joe Rexrode thinks the Chiefs will win 23-16.
“(The Titans) must keep the score down and avoid giving up the big play. But unless their offense plays better than it has in months, that still won’t be enough,” Rexrode wrote.
▪ ESPN analysts are split. Darren Woodson thinks the Chiefs will win. “The one concern I have with the Tennessee Titans is they don’t make enough big plays vertically down the football field. They’re going to be in a grind-it-out game on the road against Kansas City. I think Kansas City puts up a lot of points this week.”
Tedy Bruschi, however, believes the Titans will win. “I’m just not scared of Kansas City. I don’t know. Their defense has struggled at times. I know Peters is playing well. He will take that ball away, but (the Titans) will take care of the football, they will run that football and (safety) Kevin Byard makes a play to win the football game.”
You can watch that discussion here:
▪ Jake Rose of Athlon Sports predicts the Chiefs will win 21-17.
“While both teams employ bend-don’t-break defenses, the Chiefs simply have too much offensive firepower that should be well rested after most starters were held out, or at least limited, in last week’s regular season finale against Denver,” Rose wrote.
▪ All six USA Today writers picked a Chiefs win.