After two intense rounds of action, the NFL playoff field has been whittled down from 12 hopefuls to just four contenders for the Super Bowl 54 crown.
But before they can compete in the biggest game of them all, those four teams must earn their ticket to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida by winning their conference championship.
Sunday serves up a doubleheader of conference championship fun for football fans and bettors, beginning with the AFC Championship Game in the afternoon window.
As always, online sportsbook Bovada has every conceivable wager covered, so the game preview below covers the biggest storylines, stats, and betting trends, along with the point spreads, moneyline odds, and Over/Under totals straight from the source.
#6 Tennessee Titans @ #2 Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday at 3:05 p.m. EST on CBS
Since the NFL playoff field expanded way back in 1990, there have been 60 Wild Card teams to hold the #6 seed, but only two of them – the 2005 Steelers and the 2010 Packers – have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy by season’s end.
The Titans have a chance to join that short list of #6 seeds turned Super Bowl champions, and after last weekend’s stunning demolition of the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee might just be in the history-making game. Sixth-seeded teams had gone just 6-19 prior to the Titans, but bruising running back Derrick Henry ran roughshod over the NFL’s best regular season performer to notch the upset as double-digit road underdogs.
That trend mattered little to Henry as the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner carried the Titans on his back to the tune of 195 yards on 30 rushing attempts. The NFL’s leading rusher absolutely dominated a Ravens defense that went all-in to stop Henry, what with his 34-carry and 182-yard tally in a Wild Card Weekend win over the vaunted New England Patriots (12-5).
Including his 211 yards on 32 totes in what was essentially a playoff game in a Week 17 victory over the Texans, Henry has amassed an astounding 588 yards on 96 carries – with four touchdowns to boot – in Tennessee’s three biggest games in recent memory.
Tennessee fans may have already crowned Henry as the “King of Music City”, but he can truly become football royalty by leading a rough and tumble Titans team past the supercharged Chiefs to the franchise’s second Super Bowl berth.
In his first tour of duty as the starter in 2018, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes tossed 50 touchdowns and won MVP honors en route to the AFC title game. That appearance ended in bitter disappointment at the hands of the eventual champion Patriots, but despite dealing with nagging injuries all year, Mahomes brought the Chiefs back to the precipice of the Super Bowl once again.
And in last week’s absurd comeback win over the Houston Texans, Mahomes showed off the MVP arm that put him on the map in the first place.
After the Texans stormed out to a 24-0 lead early in the second quarter, Mahomes threw four touchdowns to erase the deficit… before halftime. He guided two more TD drives to begin the rout, before throwing for his fifth score to cap an epic 51-31 victory.
When it was all said and done, the Chiefs made history by becoming the first team to ever to win a playoff game by 20+ points after trailing by the same margin.
Four of Mahomes’ five touchdown throws culminated drives of just four plays or fewer, displaying the Chiefs’ uncanny ability to string together chunk plays thanks to head coach Andy Reid’s explosive offensive scheme.
That’s the antithesis of the Titans’ run-heavy, clock-controlling game plan, one which has produced a pair of playoff road upsets despite QB Ryan Tannehill throwing for fewer than 100 yards each time out.
Styles make fights, as they say, so expect this year’s AFC Championship Game to alternate between Henry’s punishing runs and Mahomes’ aerial bombardment.
The oddsmakers like the Chiefs’ passing game to overwhelm a ground-based Titans attack, so Mahomes and Co. get the nod as (-7.5) home favorites. Moneyline bettors are offered a (+265) price when taking Tennessee compared to (-330) for Kansas City, and the Over / Under total is set at 52.5 points.