Find line reports, best bets, and subscribe to push notifications in the Betting News section.
Ever since falling short in last year's AFC Championship Game, the Kansas City Chiefs and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes felt destined to return in 2020. Seemingly, the Chiefs were likely to meet either the Ravens or the Patriots. Instead, the Tennessee Titans took care of both favorites en route to an improbable berth in the conference final - their first in almost two decades.
Tennesse also beat Kansas City in a wild Week 10 game, but the stakes will be infinitely higher on Sunday. Can the Chiefs solve the Titans while exorcising their demons from last year's AFC title game loss, or will Tennessee turn a nice story into a historic run to the Super Bowl?
Chiefs -7.5, 52.5
Kansas City opened at -7.5 earlier in the week and hasn't moved off that number. The total of 52.5 hasn't shifted, either.
This is a familiar spot for both sides. The Chiefs were giving more than a touchdown ahead of last week's win over Houston, while the Titans were catching more than a touchdown before their surprise victory against Baltimore.
Last week against the Texans, Mahomes avenged one of only two losses he's suffered since Week 6 (along with the defeat to Tennessee in Week 10). The Chiefs are now on a 7-0 run against the spread while outscoring opponents by an average of 16.8 points per game.
The Titans are on a nice run of their own. Since installing Ryan Tannehill as the starter in Week 7, they've gone 9-3 ATS overall and 5-1 ATS on the road with a plus-11.5 average scoring differential in those six games. Two of them were outright wins as underdogs of 4.5 points and 10 points, and the latter victory tied for the second-biggest playoff upset since the Patriots' historic Super Bowl win in 2002.
Can the Titans continue this success as underdogs? Well, there's a precedent. The last 10 teams to win consecutive playoff games as underdogs went 8-2 ATS in their third game with seven outright wins. The only squad to catch more than a touchdown in that spot was the '07 Giants against the Patriots, and we all know how that turned out.
This is also a surprisingly tough spot for the Chiefs after last week's dominant, historic, and potentially exhausting comeback win over Houston. Since 2002, teams that scored at least 40 points in a playoff victory went a troubling 6-17 ATS (26.1%) in their following game. Additionally, teams coming off wins of 20 points or more went just 14-20 ATS (41.2%) in their next contest during that same span.
It might seem counterintuitive that dominant teams would struggle in their next game, but it could also speak to an inflated line for Kansas City against a Tennessee team that has consistently played well as a big 'dog. Since Mike Vrabel took over in 2018, the Titans have gone 9-3 ATS with eight outright wins when catching more than 3 points, and they've gone a perfect 4-0 ATS when catching more than 6.
It's easy to say that Derrick Henry can't possibly sustain his recent success. After all, he's rushed for 211, 182, and 195 yards in consecutive games on a combined 96 carries. But the NFL's leading rusher is actually facing his best matchup this week against Kansas City.
The Chiefs' run defense ranked fourth worst in the NFL this season, per PFF and DVOA, having allowed the fourth-most yards per attempt (4.9) and the seventh-most yards per game (128.2). It wasn't that opponents were running to protect their leads, either, as Kansas City spent the third-shortest amount of time trailing this season and the second-shortest amount of time in tied games.
Instead, teams have actively attacked the Chiefs' run defense. The Titans sure did in Week 10 when Henry barreled for 188 yards, his highest total of the year before this recent three-game stretch. Nobody's had an answer for him in these playoffs, and Kansas City hasn't had an answer against the run game all season.
We say this every week now, but the Titans pose serious matchup problems for their opponent. The Chiefs' biggest kryptonite is their aforementioned shoddy run defense, which is like dangling red meat in front of the grizzly bear that is Henry. And if Kansas City sells out to stop the run, Tannehill has proven to be one of the more dangerous quarterbacks this season in play-action and when given time in the pocket.
The hook is what sells it here. Vrabel's teams rarely get blown out as underdogs, so Sunday's matchup could come down to one final drive for either side. If so, those who grab +7.5 would already be set. Take the points in a favorable spot for the improbable road 'dog.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.