The Big LeadThe Big Lead

Bold Predictions For the Chiefs vs. Titans AFC Championship Game

Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill | Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

After an extremely entertaining divisional round of the NFL playoffs, the AFC Championship Game is set between two foes familiar with each other. The Titans have the most momentum out of any team in this year's playoffs, knocking off a staggering Patriots squad before marching into Baltimore and thoroughly beating down the regular season's best team and its likely MVP of a quarterback. The Chiefs, meanwhile, spotted the Texans 24 points before scoring 41 straight and ending up with 51 in a blowout.

Tennessee will now go on the road for the third straight week for their toughest matchup yet with Patrick Mahomes, while the Chiefs defense will attempt to do what few have successfully done all season-- tackle Derrick Henry. Here are some bold predictions from The Big Lead's staff for what should be a great game.

The Chiefs Start Hot But Fade Down the Stretch in Another Playoff Disappointment

In the last two playoff games at Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs have stumbled out of the gate. Kansas City scored no points in the first half of last year's AFC Championship Game and were down 24-0 after 20 minutes of football on Sunday. This time, it'll be different. Andy Reid will come out with three series' worth of scripted plays that Patrick Mahomes will perfectly execute, and they'll go up by at least one score heading into halftime. But Tennessee will make second-half adjustments and hold the high-flying offense to merely a field goal in the final 30 minutes, culminating with a game-winning Derrick Henry 40-yard rumble for a touchdown. -- Liam McKeone

Derrick Henry Will Finally Cool Off, But Ryan Tannehill Will Explode

Henry has run for 377 yards in two playoff games. Ryan Tannehill has passed for 160 yards in that same time frame. The strategy appears simple for the KC defense- shut down Henry and it's curtains. That will not be the case on Sunday. Chris Jones will play after missing last week and be the difference-maker on the line as the Chiefs hold Henry to less than 100 yards rushing on over 20 attempts. But they'll forget they also have to deal with Tannehill, who played like a top-five quarterback over the last half of the season. He'll finish with 200+ yards passing and a pair of TDs while adding almost (but not quite) 100 yards on the ground and another touchdown. It's Tannehill's time, and the Chiefs will soon learn that. -- McKeone

Mahomes Throws a No-Look Touchdown

In the AFC divisional round, Mahomes was in complete control, throwing from several different arm angles depending on what the situation required. He'll build off that with another huge performance, which will include a no-look touchdown pass. He missed one earlier this year. He won't miss this time. - Brian Giuffra

Tyrann Mathieu Makes a Game-Defining Play

It's a little vague, but Mathieu stood out in the divisional round, making several important plays and being in the right place at the right time. The only miscue he had was dropping an interception in the end zone. Against the Titans, he'll make up for that by making a big play, whether it be a forced fumble, fumble recovery, interception, or something else. I don't know what form it'll come in. But I do know the Honey Badger is playing his best football right now and it will translate to success against the Titans. - Giuffra

Ryan Tannehill Will Pass For More Yards Than the Last Two Games Combined

Tannehill only threw for a combined 160 yards combined in the Titans' wins over the Pats and Ravens so maybe this prediction isn't SO bold. But I think the Chiefs will stuff the box to try to stop Derrick Henry and force Tannehill to beat them. This will lead to downfield opportunities for Tennessee. -Ryan Glasspiegel

Kansas City Gets a Special Teams Touchdown

Andy Reid panicked while his team dug a hole against Tennessee, inserting Tyreek Hill in as a returner instead of Mecole Hardman. He will stick to the gameplan Sunday and be rewarded, perhaps on the opening kick of the game, with a 100-yard score that sends Arrowhead up for grabs and puts the Titans back on their heels. That is, if Tennessee is foolish enough to tempt fate by not kicking it deep. - Kyle Koster

Tennessee Dominates on Time of Possession, But It's a Hollow Victory

New England established a halfway decent strategy against the Titans: force them to move down the field without chunk plays. Derrick Henry is capable of doing just that, but controlling the pace of play against Kansas City is extremely tough, considering their quick-strike offense. It's entirely conceivable we're looking at 40 minutes of possession but a double-digit margin of victory in the other direction. - Koster

Derrick Henry Will Dominate

The Chiefs have failed to stop the run all season and that will continue this week. Titans back Derrick Henry has staked his claim as the best running back in football and it's hard to argue. He's the first player in league history to rack up 180 or more rushing yards in three consecutive weeks. He'll explode for a big day again and be the best player on the field. But it might not be enough as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are capable of huge plays and can score quickly. Nevertheless, Henry will dominate the AFC Championship Game and move closer to "household name" status - Ryan Phillips