NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Titans hit the road on Sunday to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Titans (7-6) are coming off a 13-10 win over the Denver Broncos. The Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders 21-13 last Thursday to improve to 10-3. The Chiefs have a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a win on Sunday.
This week, I caught up with Terez Paylor, who covers the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star. You can follow Terez, and join over 33,000 other followers, @TerezPaylor.
Here's a look at how our conversation went:
Wyatt: **Hey Terez. I appreciate your time. I haven't been able to watch the Chiefs a bunch this season, but I saw them last Thursday against the Raiders and they looked good. I looked at the NFL rankings and notice they're ranked 24th in the NFL on offense, and 27th on defense. How'd they get to 10-3 after 13 games?
Paylor:Turnover margin. They're (plus 11), so they've been very good turning teams over and protecting the football. And that will get you a long way in this league. They'll give up some yards in between the 20s on defense, but they're red zone defense is really good, too. So teams have been moving the ball on them, but they have mainly just been getting field goals. And honestly, the defense has kind of carried these guys. So that would explain what they are 10-3. They have forced teams to field goals, and you get some timely turnovers and the offense has been able to come through every once in a while when it's mattered. And this is also a battle-tested group, they know how to win. They seem to know how to make plays when it matters, and they is a sign of a good team. They seem to make plays at critical times.
Wyatt:Well, I hated to see Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson suffer a ruptured Achilles tendon vs. the Raiders. He suffered a similar injury against the Titans in the 2014 season opener. How big of a loss is Johnson on defense, and how will the Chiefs replace him?
Paylor: Derrick is a big, big loss. He is probably the brain of the defense. He is the green dot guy in the middle, so he has the communication with the sideline in his helmet. He is the one who will tell guys basically what play is coming because he knew offenses so well. So it is a big loss. The guy who has been playing next to him all season, Ramik Wilson, has had a nice season. But his projected replacement, D.J. Alexander is untested. Look, the Titans can run the ball, and the Chiefs know this. And they're going to have to really figure it out. D.J. has to step up here.
Wyatt: I know one guy the Titans will have to contain is Chiefs receiver/return man Tyreek Hill. Man, is he fast. How much of a threat has he been all season, and how much have teams tried to kick the ball away from him?
Paylor:* *Not as much as you would think as far as teams trying to avoid him – they still kick to him for some reason. He is the fastest guy in football, and he has really good instincts as a returner. He is somebody you probably shouldn't kick to very much, and if you try to outkick the coverage it just creates lanes for him and he'll take it back on you. He is an electric player, and he is good on offense, too. He is a real receiver. He can track it deep. He is not a gadget guy even though he is little. There is a real ceiling for him, and they are thrilled with his development overall.
Wyatt: University of Tennessee fans here love Chiefs safety Eric Berry. Anyone who has followed his career has a lot of respect for his story of perseverance. Is he the emotional leader of the Chiefs, and what is his future in Kansas City?
Paylor:He is definitely the emotional leader. He is kind of the heart and soul of the team. Everybody listens to Eric Berry when he talks, because beating cancer is something real, you know? Not everybody can do that, and then to come back and be the player you were before. And you know what? He is probably even better. Before his battle with cancer, he had gotten a little heavy. He bulked up too much. He wasn't fat, but he bulked up too much. He wasn't quite as fluid as he is now. He is now light, and his coverage ability is back. He is really everything they thought he could be. So you add that to his leadership aspect, and he is a complete player.
Wyatt:So what is his future in Kansas City after this year?
Paylor:He is on the franchise tag. I think what happens next year is definitely "to be determined." Eric was hoping for a long-term deal this offseason, but the Chiefs didn't give it to them. And now Eric is having another All-Pro season. He is going to get paid from somebody. He is having the kind of season where he deserves to get paid. And somebody is going to pay him that money. The Chiefs might have to just because of his leadership ability, which is real. But if they do pay him it is going to be more than what he was asking for this year, I can guarantee you that. His price tag has definitely gone up.
Wyatt:OK, last thing here. And it's about the weather. I've been keeping an eye on it from afar. How it's looking for Sunday, and which team benefits from a cold weather game in your mind?
Paylor:Well, it is going to be cold. Real cold. The temperature is supposed to be around 10 degrees, but the wind will make it feel around zero. So that will be fun, huh? I will say this: A physical game like this might favor Tennessee if they can handle the cold themselves. The Chiefs just played a cold-weather game against the Raiders and they were fine, but it wasn't this cold. This is going to be a special kind of cold. Feeling like zero is a little different. I don't know if the Titans have played in that before, but typically cold weather favors teams that pound the heck out of the ball, so I do think if Tennessee can handle the weather it will fit their style of game.
TitansOnline.com looks back at the team's all-time series against the Kansas City Chiefs. (AP Photos)