I can’t imagine a situation where I would pick a team in the playoffs that scored 50 or more points the prior week. In 1990, I couldn’t call a side on the New York Giants versus Buffalo Bills matchup in Super Bowl XXV because the Bills had scored 51 points in the AFC Championship Game.
While the Bills were not likely to cover a nearly touchdown point spread after scoring 51 points against the Raiders, I wanted no part of the Giants either. They were forced to go with backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler after Phil Simms was injured in December. The quarterback position was so dramatically in the Bills favor with Jim Kelly leading the Bills attack, that the conflicts on the game abounded..
Scott Norwood missed the field goal that would have won it for the Bills, but the game was already firmly put away by the underdog Giants with the points on the spread. The bonus for New York bettors was a huge payday on the moneyline.
Last week, the Kansas City Chiefs outscored the Houston Texans by a 51-7 count after falling behind 24-0. This week, the Chiefs are laying more than a touchdown against the team that has played nearly as well as any team over the second half of the 2019 campaign.
Only the Baltimore Ravens gained a higher score on Qoxhi numbers than the Tennessee Titans since the eighth week of this season. The turnaround for the Titans season coincides with the insertion of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback. Including two postseason wins, Tannehill is now 9-3 in his dozen starts.
Yet, in Tennessee’s case, it doesn’t seem to be the quarterback that is leading the charge, but rather everything around him feeding off his fire to achieve.
Tannehill has been in the league eight years, this is his first campaign in Nashville after seven seasons with the Miami Dolphins. The Titans signed him to backup Marcus Mariota, the second overall selection in the 2015 draft. A veteran like Tannehill is an insurance policy against a team’s certain collapse if their starting quarterback is injured. Few times would a QB in Tannehill’s position get the opportunity to start without an injury to the high draft choice starter. But 2019, was one of those few times for the former Dolphins quarterback.
Tannehill took over the Titans starting quarterback role after Mariota played himself off the filed, the final straw a 16-0 loss to the Denver Broncos.
On Saturday, Tannehill became only the second quarterback in NFL history to win back-to-back postseason games while throwing for less than 100 yards and with a touchdown. Terry Bradshaw did that with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1974 AFC Championship Game against the Oakland Raiders, and in their ensuing Super Bowl IX victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
The Steelers were winning in those years on the strength of their defense, and a ball control, clock consuming offense directed by Bradshaw and powered by runningback Franco Harris.
This Titans do not have a defense yet close to being mentioned with the likes of the Steelers of the 1970’s, Chicago Bears of 1985, or Baltimore Ravens of 2000. But, if they continue to excel as they have over the past eight weeks, they soon will be. Tennessee has not allowed more than 14 points over the past three weeks, and in their last eight games only once did they give up more than 30 points. That one big number against the Titans stop unit was in front of a Monday Night Football audience in New Orleans while Drew Brees was staging a clinic and becoming the all-time touchdown passing leader, supplanted Peyton Manning with his 540th career scoring strike.
Then there is the one element in this postseason field that is totally off the charts, the running of Derrick Henry. The Titans offensive line is opening holes that you or I might suggest we could run through, but when you send the best back in the game today in the midst of his career year bursting through, you have record ground gains.
One might notice if they are looking close that the Titans are playing their fourth straight game on the road this week. That is a potentially debilitating travel schedule.
That negative seems outweighed by two significant factors. First, the Titans continue to overachieve as an underdog, and second, the Chiefs coming off a performance that saw them outscore their opponent 51-7 over the final three quarters last Sunday.
History will show that not all teams lose in the playoffs after scoring 50 or more points the prior week. In fact, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions, 5-0, in 1970, after putting up 52 the prior week against the Houston Oilers. The New York Giants had scored 55 points against the Green Bay Packers in 1986 before beating the 49ers 49-3 in a Divisional Playoff game on their way to winning Super Bowl XX over the Denver Broncos, 39-20. In the 2005 playoffs, the Raiders downed the Miami Dolphins 27-0 the week after they tallied 52 points to close out their 2000 regular season against the Carolina Panthers.
But, aside from those three exceptions, there have been six other teams playing in the postseason after scoring 50 or more points the prior week, and all six of those teams lost against the point spread and five of the six lost their games straight-up.
Looking for an exception to win a wager is usually the wrong side of the proposition.
Qoxhi Picks: Tennessee Titans (+7½) over the Kansas City Chiefs