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Airs Saturday, Jan. 6, at 4:20 p.m. ET on ESPN and ABC, ESPN Deportes and the ESPN App
ESPN will open the 2018 NFL Wild Card Weekend on Saturday, January 6, at 4:20 p.m. ET with the Tennessee Titans (9-7) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (10-6). The AFC matchup will air on ESPN and be simulcast on ABC. The game will also be available in Spanish on ESPN Deportes and streamed live on the ESPN App, including mobile phones. Kickoff is 4:35 p.m. ET. (ESPN Wild Card promo)
Monday Night Football’s Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden will call the game with reporters Lisa Salters (covering the Chiefs) and Adam Schefter (Titans) from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. MNF producer Jay Rothman and director Chip Dean – working their 27th season together (12th on MNF) – will produce the Wild Card game. The ESPN Deportes team includes Eduardo Varela, Pablo Viruega and reporter John Sutcliffe.
ESPN’s Jon Gruden Previews the Titans-Chiefs Wild Card Game:
On the Titans …
The Titans have struggled the last month of the season, putting it all together but they are still a very dangerous team. Their defense is vastly underrated, they have a great field goal kicker in (Ryan) Succop, and they have a quarterback who can create offense. They just have to become more consistent and convert on third down.
On the Chiefs …
The Chiefs seem to have found their groove. The win against the Chargers was eye-opening. They ran the ball with authority. The big three – (Travis) Kelce, (Tyreek) Hill and (Kareem) Hunt – is hard for defenses to deal with. How the Chiefs do in the playoffs is also going to come down to how their defense performs. They’ve had a lot of changes and the pass rush has struggled at times. They’re missing some key players – Eric Berry for example is a huge loss. They’re trying to plug in Darrelle Revis. Their inside linebackers have struggled at times in coverage and in space. I worry about the Chiefs defensively but they are going to be a tough out at home at Arrowhead.
On Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was part of Gruden’s QB Camp in 2015 …
I thought Mariota got off to a good start and then he hurt his hamstring. He missed some time and then he was questionable for our Monday Night game. He looks like he’s moving explosively again. He’s showing some fast-twitch movement in the pocket. That was the deciding factor in the win against Jacksonville. His legs are really important to his game because it allows him to make unscripted plays. It looks like he’s getting healthy and he’s getting used to Eric Decker, who came over as a free agent, and they’re getting rookie receiver Corey Davis involved in the offense. So, Mariota is getting healthy and he’s getting acclimated to his new weapons, and that’s a good thing this time of year.
On Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith …
Smith looks like a veteran Marcus Mariota. The two quarterbacks in this game are very similar. They’re smart, great competitors and they’re athletic. They can create plays and I think that could provide the winning edge in this game. Smith has had a great year, perhaps his best as a pro. His deep-ball accuracy has improved. They ask him to do about everything at the line of scrimmage. He’s had a Pro Bowl-caliber season for sure.
On the key matchups to watch …
Both defenses have to contain these two quarterbacks because they create so much offense scrambling for first downs, scrambling and throwing, they can run the zone-read, design quarterback runs. You have to have a plan for Mariota and Smith on the ground and keep them in the pocket. Both defenses also have to deal with a lot of different personnel groupings – plays that you can’t really prepare for. There are so many uncommon formations, shifts, alignments. Andy Reid and Mike Mularkey are very diverse on offense.
I think the weather in Kansas City is a problem. Last time these two teams played a year ago, it was cold. It affected Mariota throwing the ball. It affected Smith throwing the ball. So, you have to keep an eye on the weather. First down in this game is the big down. I have a feeling it is going to be hard to throw the ball in Arrowhead.
On Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, whom Gruden coached with as an assistant in Green Bay …
It is not uncommon to see Coach Reid in the playoffs. If you look at his won-loss record, he is creeping in on the all-time greats. He has just been able to adapt to different teams, different players, different rules, as well as anybody I have seen in the history of the game. He is still a great teacher. He has no ego. You’ve seen him give away the play-calling. It shows you he is just a sincerely great coach – knows how to hire assistants, knows how to get the team ready. Hopefully, he has some playoff success this year.
On the atmosphere at Arrowhead Stadium …
This is as good as there is. Loud, passionate Chiefs fans. They have the right tailgating atmosphere – these fans are ready to go. They know the game. They know when to make noise. They know when to keep it quiet. Hopefully, the Tennessee Titans have worked hard on their silent count and their hand signals because I have a feeling they are going to need it.
Suzy Kolber Hosts ESPN/ABC Wild Card Pregame Show from Arrowhead Stadium – 3 p.m. ET
Leading into Titans-Chiefs, Suzy Kolber will host a special Postseason NFL Countdown (3 p.m., ESPN and ABC) live from Arrowhead Stadium with analysts Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss Steve Young and Charles Woodson. Salters and Schefter will provide team updates. Reporter Dan Graziano (Titans-Chiefs) and Josina Anderson (Falcons-Rams) will also provide updates on Saturday’s Wild Card games.
ESPN’s coverage of the NFL’s wild card weekend also includes:
- On-site reporters providing updates on Bills-Jaguars (Sal Paolantonio and Jeff Darlington) and Panthers-Saints (Dianna Russini);
- Two live editions of NFL PrimeTime with Trey Wingo and Mike Greenberg each hosting a show and Ryan Clark, Tim Hasselbeck and Jeff Saturday serving as analysts; and
- A Sunday edition of Postseason NFL Countdown (10 a.m. ET) with Sam Ponder, Rex Ryan, Matt Hasselbeck, Moss, Woodson, Riddick, Mortensen and Schefter.
ESPN NFL shows on Wild Card Weekend Jan. 6-7):
|Saturday, Jan. 6||4 a.m.||NFL Matchup (reairs at 6:30 a.m. on ESPN and 9:30 a.m. on ESPN2)||ESPN|
|11 a.m.||NFL Championship Chase: Wild Card Weekend (reairs at 2 p.m. on ABC)||ESPN2|
|12 p.m.||Postseason NFL Countdown||ESPN|
|3 p.m.||Postseason NFL Countdown||ESPN
|4:20 p.m.||NFL Wild Card Game
Tennessee Titans vs.
Kansas City Chiefs
|Sunday, Jan. 7||12 a.m.||NFL PrimeTime||ESPN|
|10 a.m.||Postseason NFL Countdown||ESPN|
|8 p.m.||NFL PrimeTime||ESPN|