There has been a lot of talk about the surprise of the season throughout the year, but with what has happened through these first two rounds of the playoffs, you can’t pick anybody over the Titans as that team for 2019 – and it is even less about preseason odds than where they were mid-season. After shellacking the often-hyped team of the offseason in the Browns 43-13, Tennessee lost four of their next five, including being held scoreless in Denver in week six. That made the coaches insert Ryan Tannehill into the starting lineup and he became one of the biggest stories of the year.
Not only did the Titans win seven of their ten remaining games, their new quarterback led the league with a passer rating of 117.5 over that stretch. In addition to the offense going to a different level and some key defensive plays, these guys basically won two games on blocked field goals – at the Colts and in their first matchup against the Chiefs. While hey received a lot of help from the Jets beating the Steelers in week 16, thanks to close home losses to the division-rival Texans and the Saints, the Titans still needed to win their regular-season finale at Houston.
With the AFC South already clinched and nothing to gain at this point, the Texans decided to rest the majority of their starters and Derrick Henry’s 200-yard day not only won him the rushing title but also secured a Wild Card spot. Coming into the New England as the six-seed, the Titans physically took it to the Patriots, as Henry once again went for over 200 yards and two scores on 35 touches, while the defense held Tom Brady and company scoreless in the second half while ending the game on a pick-six. Then last Saturday night they went into Baltimore to take on the number one team in the entire playoffs and completely took them out of their game. Despite being outgained by 230 yards, the three turnovers and four different fourth-down stops led to a final score of 28-12.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, were one of the bigger favorites to win the Super Bowl coming into the 2019 season. They brought pretty much everybody back from that team that came one offside penalty short of winning the AFC last season while adding veterans on defense in Frank Clark, Tyrann Mathieu, and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. After starting the year off 4-0, Kansas City scored a season-low 13 points in a home loss to the Colts, followed by another defeat to the Texans at Arrowhead the following week – a stretch over which they gave up an average of 186 rushing yards.
Many people thought the formula was out there for beating the Chiefs in terms of controlling the clock and keeping their explosive offense off the field, but actually what happened in a huge win over the Broncos almost derailed their season, as Patrick Mahomes appeared to have separated his kneecap. Thankfully it only took the superstar quarterback two weeks to recover from the injury and his backup Matt Moore went 1-1 in his absence, but in his return, the Chiefs lost to their opponent for this weekend 35-32. KC didn’t lose another one of the remaining six games, while the defense allowed just under 10 points and they outscored teams by over 16 points per game.
They also got some major help from the Dolphins, who upset the Patriots at Foxborough as a 17-point underdog in the season finale, to give Andy Reid’s group the number two seed. Coming off the bye, these guys didn’t seem to be awake for about the first 20 minutes and thanks to a few crucial mistakes, they dug themselves a 24-0 hole. From that point on, however, the Chiefs outscored Houston 51-7 and the offense at one point had scored seven consecutive touchdowns, while Frank Clark proved why he was worth trading for with his three sacks on Deshaun Watson.