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Alls well that ends well in Tennessee. After a three-game losing streak and an ugly victory over Jacksonville, the Titans are in the playoffs. On one hand, fans are happy the team made it. On the other hand, it means Mike Mularkey is almost guaranteed to return next season. The offensive issues still remain but the defense is coming on at the right time.

They have a favorable matchup against a hobbled Kansas City Chiefs team. For the Titans to score a playoff upset they need their secondary to be on point. The Chiefs offer up the opportunity for Kevin Byard and the Titans secondary to do some real damage.

Kevin Byard was the hero in Tennessee in week 17. He picked off Blake Bortles twice in the fourth quarter. Jason Mendoza may be the only Bortles fan left after he once again blew a game for the Jags. Byard transformed into the prototypical Dick LeBeau safety as the year wore on. He is excellent at patrolling the backfield and disrupting the run and pass game. Against the Chiefs, he should prove valuable in keeping their offense in check.

Byard along with rookie corner Adoree’ Jackson should be able to neutralize Tyreek Hill forcing the Chiefs to find another receiver to beat them. Tight End Travis Kelce will still get his catches but if the Titans are to win they just need to keep him out of the end zone. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been as efficient as he’s ever been despite the Chiefs hitting a mid-season skid. The Titans have the kind of secondary to give him fits and allow the pass rush time to get to him.

This game will be ugly given its Saturday afternoon time slot. The Titans usually do well in ugly situations. For them to punch their ticket to the divisional round it all starts with the secondary. Byard tied for the league lead in interceptions with eight. He needs to bring that knack for creating turnovers into Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday or the Titans are sunk.

Jackson needs to both be a terrific cover corner and make plays on special teams. The offense won’t be much of a factor for the Titans so it’s all up to the defense. Luckily, the secondary is more than up to the challenge.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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