The Tennessee Titans travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs on NFL kickoff Sunday. The two teams have faced each other 49 times going back to their inception as the Houston Oilers (Titans) and the Dallas Texans (Chiefs). The Chiefs own a 29-20 lead in the series and are 2-0 versus the Oilers/Titans in AFC playoff action.
The last time the Chiefs won in the playoffs it was 1994 at the Astrodome against the Oilers 28-20. The two teams faced each other during the 2013 season at LP Field on October 6, 2013 where the Chiefs won 26-17.
It is a reunion of sorts for former Kansas City Chiefs WR/RB Dexter McCluster, running back Jackie Battle and place kicker Ryan Succop. McCluster was drafted by the Chiefs in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft (#36 overall) and spent his first four seasons there. I took a look at the Titans signing McCluster here.
Jackie Battle was an undrafted free agent out of Houston who signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 as an undrafted free agent. An injury cost him a roster but he ended up signing with the Chiefs and played there until 2011. The 2011 Chiefs team also included McCluster and Succop.
Mr. Irrelevant 2009 Ryan Succop ended up being not so irrelevant after all. Taken with the very last pick (#256 overall) and started immediately. He spent his first five years with the Chiefs finishing with an 81% of field goals made in his career there. His career long is a 54 yarder against the Minnesota Vikings during the 2011 season. Succop joined the Titans on September 1, 2014 after his release by Kansas City.
The Chiefs will be without Dwayne Bowe who is serving a one game suspension to start the season. Also, the Chiefs will be without rookie Deanthony Thomas who was injured in practice this week. He is listed as doubtful and is not expected to play. Also, defensive back Marcus Cooper is questionable with an ankle injury. The Chiefs full injury report from Friday can be found here.
Otherwise, Starting right tackle Donald Stephenson is suspended for the first four games and linebacker Joe Mays is on injured reserve. The Titans only injury of note is defensive lineman Mike Martin who is questionable with a hamstring injury.
The Titans recently announced that Blidi Wreh-Wilson will play opposite Jason McCourty at the right corner back spot vacated by the departure of Alterraun Verner while Coty Sensabaugh will return to the nickel or slot role. The Titans secondary struggled in the pre-season so it’s an opportunity for the group to get some redemption and settle into a groove if they play well. Expect Wilson to see a ton of action from veteran quarterback Alex Smith.
The Titans run game also struggled out of the gate in pre-season so despite the lack of weapons Jamaal Charles will be quite the challenge for them. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has promised an improved version of what was seen to be unveiled and all eyes will be watching to see how the defense fares.
With the suspension of Stephenson and former Tennessee Volunteer rookie right guard Zach Fulton starting, it could be a big game for outside linebacker Derrick Morgan. Morgan enters the final year of his rookie deal and has looked good at his new position at outside linebacker. Jurrell Casey could also have a very nice game as well.
On offense, Jake Locker begins the most important year of his five year NFL career. Locker got into a groove during the pre-season and looked healthy. Whether he stays that way remains to be seen and is the biggest question mark facing him. He will face a tough Chiefs defense including former All Pros Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson and Pro Bowler Tamba Hali. Justin Houston is an up and coming player as well and one of the best outside linebackers in the league.
The real question mark for the Chiefs defense is the secondary after they let Brandon Flowers go during the offseason. Cooper being limited will not help and they will face an array of talent including former Chiefs offensive weapon McCluster, veteran wideout Nate Washington and up and coming youngsters Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. At tight end they also have underrated veteran Delanie Walker who had a strong season for the Titans in 2013.
A lot of eyes will be on the Titans run game to see how the carries distribute. Given the state of the Chiefs secondary, it would not surprise me to see the Titans air it out. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt isn’t afraid to do it and he has the tools to do it with the players mentioned above. Expect a heavy dose of all three running backs but I suspect Shonn Greene and McCluster to see work given their ability in pass protection.
One final note for the Titans and Chiefs who both carry Schwenke’s on their roster. Center Brian Schwenke will start for the Titans while defensive tackle Kona Schwenke resides on the Chiefs practice squad. Sadly, we cannot call this the Battle of the Schwenkes but it would have been fun.
Kickoff is at noon EST at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be approximately 70 degrees with a high of 75 and a low of 58. Currently Vegas has the game at Chiefs -3. The Chiefs were a 2.5 point favorite last year and covered the spread.
The game will be broadcast locally on CBS. You may also follow the action on NFL Redzone.
Note: In my season predictions I picked the Chiefs to win but injuries since then have changed my prediction.