Kansas City is shocking most of the football world thus far, being one of the five remaining unbeaten squads. The Chiefs have not had to play any quality teams outside of the 2-2 Dallas Cowboys, defeating only the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. That said, the performances have been mostly dominant.
Tennessee comes in with a major issue. In last week's game against the New York Jets, quarterback Jake Locker was knocked out for the next 4-6 with a sprained hip on a hit by Muhammad Wilkerson. With Locker out, backup veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick takes over the offense. At 3-1, the Titans are tied for the AFC South lead and hoping to stay atop the division with a stout defense and solid offensive play from Fitzpatrick.
Meet the Chiefs
Most of the attention this offseason paid to Kansas City was focused on the additions of Andy Reid and Alex Smith. While both have proven to be very important and highly productive, the real unsung hero has been defensive coordinator Bob Sutton.
Sutton has this defense playing some serious football, hearkening Chiefs fans back to the days of Neil Smith and the late, great Derrick Thomas. Kansas City leads the league with 18 sacks, including a league-pacing 7.5 by Justin Houston. Tamba Hali has also been a handful, leading the league in quarterback pressures. Overall, the defense ranks first in points allowed per game (10.2) and second in passing yard permitted per game (188.8).
One of the big stats has been a +9 turnover ratio with 12 takeaways. Ironically, the Chiefs are tied with the Titans atop the turnover ratio department, due to Tennessee not turning the ball over once. Jamaal Charles has been his usual superhuman self, with 502 total yards of offense.
Meet the Titans
The big unknown coming into this game is how well Fitzpatrick plays in Locker's place. Fitzpatrick has been in the league for eight years with a line of 93 touchdowns and 81 interceptions. Last week, he was 3-for-8 in the second half during the victory over the Jets.
Tennessee has been one of the more consistent teams in the NFL in terms of playing tough defense and trying to run the ball with authority behind a revamped offensive line. The defense has seen the imprint of defensive assistant Gregg Williams, who encourages an attacking, blitz-heavy scheme. Perhaps nobody has benefited from this defense more than linebacker Zach Brown, who has 26 tackles and three sacks.
Offensively, Chris Johnson has been the focal point of the scheme. Johnson has struggled to get going, however, only rushing for 3.3 yards per carry. Still, Johnson is a threat to take it to the house with any carry. Johnson has incredibly had just one carry of 20+ yards on the season despite a better line featuring free agent pickup Andy LeVitre and first-round pick Chance Warmack.
Local take: Chiefs
McCluster's return was not just a great play. It was a HUGE play in the course of the Giants-Chiefs game. You look at the final score -- 31-7 -- and think the game was a blowout but it wasn't until the fourth quarter. McCluster's late third quarter return flipped the game to the Chiefs favor. Biggest play of the game.
Local take: Titans
To date in 2013, Verner has allowed 118 yards and 0 Touchdowns. That breaks down to 29.5 yards allowed per game, as well as an average of an interception to go along with those ridiculously stingy numbers. Better still, QB's throwing against Verner boast a rating of just 12.9...those are Blaine Gabbert numbers. They are also 10+ points higher than second place holder Richard Sherman. (And as someone pointed out yesterday, the polar opposite of former Titans CB Cortland Finnegan, who is allowing a perfect QB rating of 158.3)
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This weekend's Chiefs game is on CBS. Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots will call the game.— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) October 2, 2013
Tennessee is a much improved team this year and has a solid defense led by the likes of Jurrell Casey, Verner and Brown. However, the turnover-prone Fitzpatrick against the best defense in football could spell disaster. Fitzpatrick tends to throw balls up for grabs, and this Titans team can not afford an avalanche of mistakes. Meanwhile, Smith will take care of the ball for Kansas City and Charles will find a play or two against this tough Tennessee front. It will be a tight game, but the undefeated Chiefs will find a way.
Pick: Chiefs 20, Titans 10
The Chiefs are favored on the road by 2.5 points over the Titans, according to Oddsshark.com.