Chris Jones Will Be Active for Chiefs
Chris Jones Will Be Active for Chiefs
Chris Jones was not on Kansas City’s final injury report heading into the game, and is expected to be active. The defensive tackle missed last week’s win over Houston with a calf injury, but had a breakout season in 2019, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. Jones led the team with nine sacks, and could be key in helping slow down Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, but he had to pass a pregame workout to be declared active. The Chiefs are also expecting tight end Travis Kelce to play through a lingering knee injury. Running back LeSean McCoy is inactive for the Chiefs, and Kansas City’s biggest absence is one they knew of in advance: rookie safety Juan Thornhill, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 17.
Tennessee, meanwhile, had several key players on its injury report heading into today, but linebacker Jayon Brown (who missed last weekend’s game with a shoulder injury) and wide receiver Adam Humphries (who has not played since Week 13) will be active.
Head Coaches Have Plenty of Conference Championship Experience
The head coaches of the Titans and Chiefs are no strangers to conference championships. Coach Andy Reid has led Kansas City to the A.F.C. championship game in each of the last two seasons and previously led the Philadelphia Eagles to the N.F.C. championship game five times in 14 seasons — winning once. As a Green Bay assistant from 1992 to 1997, he went to the N.F.C. championship three times, winning twice.
Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel is in the A.F.C. championship game for the first time as a head coach, but he regularly advanced to the game as a player. He played for a shot at a Super Bowl appearance as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers following the 1997 season — losing to John Elway’s Denver Broncos — and with the New England Patriots, where he played in the conference championship five times over a span of eight seasons, winning four times.
Damien Williams views the Chiefs as underdogs.
Kansas City has a whole host of skill players, but an interesting one to watch in this game will be running back Damien Williams, who was expected to play a secondary role to LeSean McCoy this season but emerged as the team’s more explosive option. Williams had 124 rushing yards in Kansas City’s bye-week-clinching win over the Chargers in Week 17, and while he had just 68 yards from scrimmage in the divisional round, he scored three touchdowns.
Williams had 109 yards from scrimmage against Tennessee in Week 10, but had a fumble returned for a touchdown. As a result, he is not buying into the narrative that Kansas City is a huge favorite. “The type of person I am, I can’t have somebody beat up on me and then come to my house and then think they’re going to beat up on me again,” he said to reporters on Thursday. “People are looking at them as the underdogs but I feel we’re the underdogs right now. They’ve already got one up on us.”
Las Vegas expects a high-scoring game.
Don’t let Tennessee’s focus on the run fool you: All indications ahead of this game are that it could easily turn into a high-scoring affair. Las Vegas set the over/under for the game at 52.5 — six points higher than the prediction for the N.F.C. championship game — and considering that the teams combined for 67 points in Week 10, that number could easily push higher.
The reasons for the high scoring prediction are fairly obvious. Kansas City was ranked 26th in the N.F.L. against the run this season — a major issue now that the team is facing Derrick Henry — and Tennessee, asked to slow down Patrick Mahomes, was ranked 24th against the pass. While the Chiefs’ secondary, led by safety Tyrann Mathieu, has been a strength, there may be some passing opportunities for the Titans thanks to the absence of rookie safety standout Juan Thornhill.
Frank Clark gives Derrick Henry some extra motivation.
Defensive end Frank Clark was a great addition for Kansas City this season, but he may have done his team some harm by giving Tennessee running back Derrick Henry some added motivation ahead of this game. Henry has rushed for at least 180 yards in three consecutive games — and ran for 188 yards against Kansas City in Week 10 — but Clark said a running back as large as Henry, who is 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, should actually run quite a bit harder. “He’s just easy to me up front because I don’t look at any running back like they can’t be tackled,” Clark said. “He’s not one of the best guys at breaking tackles to me, honestly.”
Baltimore safety Earl Thomas made similarly dismissive comments about Henry and the Titans before last weekend’s divisional round. That came back to haunt the star safety, as at one point in Henry’s 195-yard game, the running back effectively used Thomas as a lead blocker (above) on a long run. Tennessee beat the top-seeded Ravens, 28-12.
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