NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Two similar teams are getting after it on the same field today when the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans play. Both teams are strong defensively, thrive off favorable turnover differentials and have quarterbacks who can scramble out of trouble and extend drives with their running ability.
Don’t underestimate how important that last factor has been for both teams. Today the difference is that for the Chiefs -- Alex Smith will be in their lineup, while for the Titans Jake Locker is out with a hip injury.
In comes veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who while with Cincinnati and Buffalo won four of his five career starts against the Chiefs. This is a much better defensive team that Fitzpatrick will face, one that puts relentless pressure on the quarterback , returned an interception for a touchdown twice this season and created at least a couple of turnovers in every game.
The Chiefs were a handful for more accomplished quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Michael Vick and Eli Manning. So they’re capable of providing headaches to a journeyman like Fitzpatrick. It would be one of the season’s big surprises if they failed to do so.
On the other side, the Chiefs committed three turnovers last week against the New York Giants, their first of the season. Sloppiness contributed to all three plays -- one when Dwayne Bowe didn’t fight for inside position on a slant route, one when a Smith pass was deflected by Jamaal Charles and one when center Rodney Hudson misfired a shotgun snap.
Those were the kinds of plays the Chiefs hadn’t been making and ones that no doubt they heard about for much of the practice week from their coaches. No guarantee they won’t happen again today, but here’s predicting the players involved received the message and there will be no repeat.
Turnovers aside, the Titans have the capability of ruining Kansas City’s day. The Chiefs are allowing a generous 5.4 yards per carry, dangerous territory to be in when facing a back the caliber of Chris Johnson. The Titans, mostly with Locker as their quarterback, have yet to commit a turnover. They play superb defense, particularly on third downs and have been air-tight on special teams.
So there’s some danger here for the Chiefs, who need to be on their game if they are to improve their record to 5-0. The Chiefs have been on their game all season and there’s no reason to expect that they won’t be today.
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Titans 17.