The schedule makers haven’t often been kind to the Tennessee Titans this season. When the Titans take on the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday, it will mark the fourth time this season that the Titans are facing a team coming off extra rest – either via a bye week or a Thursday night game.
Tennessee is 1-2 in those games, having throttled the Miami Dolphins for the lone win and lost at division rivals Houston and Indianapolis with both those teams having had extra time off.
“I don’t know what it is, but it feels like it happens to us a lot. I don’t know why, but it’s interesting how that happens. There’s nothing you can do about it,” Mularkey said.
What the Titans can do something about is their playoff hopes. With three games remaining, Tennessee is in control of its own playoff destiny regarding the AFC South title. A win Sunday at Kansas City, plus division wins against Jacksonville and Houston would guarantee the Titans the division crown without any needed outside help. A loss in any of those three games however, could trigger all sorts of scenarios involving scoreboard watching in the final weeks.
Here is what the Titans need to accomplish to pull out a win in Kansas City.
First down: Run, run and run some more – The offensive game plan this week should not be all that different from what worked last week against the Broncos. The Chiefs run defense has been a sore spot, and it has been a Titans strength, led by DeMarco Murray and the solid offensive line. Running the ball effectively is job one for the Titans on Sunday.
Second down: Battle the elements and crowd – The forecast calls for a temperature of 3 at kickoff. Yes, you read that correctly. That, plus a raucous and loud crowd at Arrowhead Stadium will be challenges the Titans will have to overcome at least until they settle in.
Third down: No special teams hiccups – Tyreek Hill is coming off being named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and Mike Mularkey said his team should try to catch a rabbit on the field in order to simulate trying to corral Hill. Directional punting, a knuckleball punt on a cold day, and most of all, sure tackling and discipline will be needed from the coverage units.
Fourth down: Pick their spots – Marcus Mariota didn’t have a good game statistically last week against the Broncos with just 88 yards on 6 of 20 passing. The Titans don’t necessarily need him to light it up for 300 yards Sunday, but a few big plays here and there – and most of all – avoiding turnovers against KC’s opportunistic defense will be key for a Tennessee win.