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NFL Week 7: Chiefs take on Titans aaaand…

Derrick Henry vs. the Chiefs run defense is the matchup to watch.
Image: Getty Images

If you’re not a fantasy football player, you might want to avert your eyes on Sunday, because there isn’t a single matchup that really jumps off the page at you. In fact, there is only one game set to take place between two teams with winning records: Cincinnati (4-2) at Baltimore (5-1), but Cincinnati isn’t exactly the most riveting team to watch… just yet. Are they on the upswing and slowly becoming must-watch television? Absolutely. However, they aren’t a team that anyone outside of Ohio sees on the schedule and goes “Oh, gotta tune into that one.” Give them one more year.

There are some matchups that could be close. Indianapolis at San Francisco has some potential, Saints at Seahawks, Eagles at Raiders — but do any of those matchups actually sound like can’t-miss football? The only game that really tickles my fancy is Kansas City at Tennessee, two teams we know can be good who’ve both got something to prove.

Through the first six weeks of the season, both the Titans and Chiefs have disappointed. However, both have done so in different ways. The Chiefs have been consistent. Their defense gives up a whole lot of points, while their offense scores even more. While the team has an average margin of victory of 1.5 points, higher than other teams with better records like the Green Bay Packers (1.3) and Los Angeles Chargers (-0.3), their defense has been so poor against the run in 2021 that teams with decent ground games have just had their way with the Chiefs all season, and I don’t know if there’s a team with a better run game than the Tennessee Titans. Yes, I know they beat Cleveland, but the Browns were still able to put up 29 points on Kansas City in a game that Andy Reid had all the time in the world to prepare for.

The Titans, on the other hand, despite holding a better record than the Chiefs have been more inconsistent than a fruit smoothie that went through the blender on half-power. A week after getting a slight scare from Jacksonville and two weeks after being humiliated by the New York Jets, the Titans took down who many believed to be the favorite in the AFC, the Buffalo Bills. Tennessee has had weeks where they’ve looked like world-beaters, and weeks where they’ve looked like an extra in a Jurassic Park movie — terrified of everything and just waiting to be swallowed whole.

So, which Titans’ team will show up on Sunday?

While the Titans did have trouble getting the run game going against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, who’ve since allowed the second-most yards per carry in the NFL (5.2), King Henry’s recent outings are proof enough for me to view that Week 1 game as nothing more than a fluke. Kansas City’s defense is going to have its hands full with Henry, and the offense will more than likely have to carry the Chiefs to victory once again.

This game could come down to how well the Chiefs utilize Tyreek Hill. The Cheetah has been the most inconsistent weapon in Mahomes’ arsenal, but when Hill gets going, the Chiefs (3-3) are unstoppable. In the team’s first six games, Hill has had three games with a touchdown and three games without a touchdown. Wouldn’t you know it, the Chiefs have won all three games where Hill has scored, and lost all three games where Hill has not.

That seems to be the new strategy many teams employ to take down the Chiefs: “Limit Hill and let Kelce run loose.” No matter what teams try to do, Travis Kelce is going to get his licks in. However, by limiting the Chiefs’ big-play potential (i.e.: Hill) the Chiefs offense loses that frightening aura of “we can score whenever we want.” Once that narrative has been peeled away, the Chiefs become much less threatening. They’re still one of the best teams in the league, and you can’t let your eye off them for one second if you want any chance of beating them, but the blueprint for success has been laid out this year.

The Titans (4-2) have had some issue with limiting big plays this season. In Week 1, they allowed absolutely every receiver who caught a pass for Arizona to record at least one reception for over 20 yards. In their next five games, the Titans have allowed players like Corey Davis and Tyler Lockett to go nuts on deep routes against them. Tyreek Hill is the most dangerous deep threat the Titans have faced so far in 2021, and their 2021 resume doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that they can stop Hill. That’ll come down to Mike Vrabel and the rest of the Titans’ staff to create a game plan that can stop Hill. It should be fun to watch.

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